7 Dec 2010

UN agency tells Senegal to enforce laws protecting children from religious abuse and exploitation

Google News - AFP June 1, 2010

UN urges Senegal to enforce child abuse laws


DAKAR — The United Nations children's agency on Tuesday urged Senegal to better enforce its laws protecting children from abuse and exploitation, citing a case of two boys abused by their Koranic master.

"On Friday 28 May newspapers reported the case of two boys aged eight and nine years old who were abused by their Koranic master and who bore traces of injuries due to beatings," UNICEF said in a press statement.

The children's agency said the public should be moved by "abuse of children which has crossed the threshold of being tolerable" and called on the government to revisit its laws and do everything necessary to implement them.

The children, known as talibes (disciples) are sent to Koranic schools, often from very poor families, where they are often sent out to beg on the street and bring a certain amount of money back to their marabouts.

Failure to do so can result in beatings.

"It's about reinforcing implementation of legal provisions banning begging, human trafficking and all other forms of physical violence against children, but also regulating the daaras (Koranic schools)," Senegal's UNICEF representative Giovanna Barberis told AFP.

"We are not accusing the daaras in general, not at all. But there are marabouts who are not really marabouts and who exploit children. We cannot remain indifferent," she added.

Two years ago, UNICEF estimated there were 8,000 children on the streets of Dakar.

In April, Human Rights Watch denounced the situation in Senegal where "tens of thousands of children are involved in begging", often exploited and abused in the name of religion. [see article below with link to report]

That same month Canada's governor-general Michaelle Jean likened the treatment of the children to slavery.

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Thousands of children in Senegal are virtual slaves to religious leaders who force them to beg for money

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