Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade says he is conducting a review of his country’s begging ban following the arrest of seven Koranic teachers last month. Some human-rights observers have expressed concern that this means the recent steps taken to reduce forced child begging will suffer.
Human Rights Watch Researcher Matt Wells said since the country's prime minister declared last month the law against begging would be strictly enforced, there have been visibly less child beggars in the streets of Dakar, the capital.
"We have seen a marked decline at least in downtown Dakar, of kids that are being forced to beg on the streets, and I am sure after this the message is going to be loud and clear, [it will] go right back to the way it was," said Wells.
Human Rights Watch issued a report earlier this year that condemned the practice in which some Koranic teachers in the country force the students in their care, known as talibe, to beg on the streets during the daytime.
But Senegal's Minister of Religious Affairs Mamadou Bamba Ndiaye said the president's statement last week should not be taken as a repeal of the begging law. He said the ban on begging will still be applied, and that Mr. Wade is hoping to better organize the collection and redistribution of alms in order to help those who need it most, whether they be talibe or others.
In his statement, Wade also said that the giving of alms is required in Islam, the religion of more than 90 percent of Senegal's population. But Ndiaye again said this did not mean that begging should be allowed in Senegal. He said that Islam invites no one to beg, but rather requires that people give to those who need it most. Ndiaye added that begging would still be punished and the law still applied in Senegal, and that talibe did not belong in the streets, but rather in schools.