DMTX. Over the last 3 years, the Indonesian authorities have significantly tightened their laws with regards to begging. This culminated in a round-up of almost 1500 beggars, most of them women and ch
Over the last 3 years, the Indonesian authorities have significantly tightened their laws with regards to begging. This culminated in a round-up of almost 1500 beggars, most of them women and children, during Ramadan 2009. Pictured: Beggars in Jakarta. Jakarta, Indonesia. 22/01/2009.
In mid-2007 the Jakartan government passed a bylaw that allowed the authorities to fine motorists who gave handouts to street beggars, up to Rp 20 million (AU$2,300) or 60 days in jail, in an effort to dissuade street begging. Begging syndicates have since been affected, as the majority of motorists raise their windows at traffic lights, even in the dry season, to avoid being harassed and possibly penalized with a fine. As women turn towards sympathy tactics to receive handouts, often 'renting' a baby from a mother unable to beg, they are still met with cold stares and empty hands.
During Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, when most of Jakarta's long term beggars and scavengers return to their villages to be with family and the city is a hive of celebration, the empty streets soon fill with fresh, new, advantageous street beggars looking to cash-in on the city's new found cheer and charitable spirits. Ramadan 2009 saw authorities not only enforcing the new laws to motorists but took one step further and commenced a round up of the seasonal influx of beggars, rationalizing that they pose a threat to the stability of the city. Just half way through the holy month authorities had rounded up 1,465 beggars and contained them in a large shelter, while taking names and origin they found all arrested were from villages outside Jakarta. Most were women and children. After a short time in holding the authorities released the beggars, with a warning that next time won't be so lenient. Jakarta's 'city of dreams' will continue to bring migrants to the industrial epicenter, however the majority will find themselves unemployed, living on the streets collecting plastic to sell as recycling or begging at traffic lights.
Photographer Mark Tipple and journalist Lauren Fitzgerald visited a syndicate run area:
"As the bus pulled away and I saw the amount of beggars walking amongst the cars with their hand out, I knew that this could quickly get out of hand.
Tono, our translator, seemed confident enough to take us into the area that's renowned for begging syndicate's, with his soldier friend close by watching I couldn't help but laugh at the amount of children playing and having fun amongst the traffic. I had heard the term 'singing in the streets' and seen some begging at intersections in the last 2 weeks of being in the city, but never like this.
Tono mentioned that the elderly women supervise the children while asking for handout's themselves, but away from the action within eye sight there'll be a "man with a tie" (knife) watching to make sure nothing happens to his operation. Government officers patrol the areas, making sure that the operations run smoothly and don't disrupt the traffic, with a healthy payout around Rp 200,000 (AU$24) per month, per intersection, they leave the beggars alone. If they enforce their new laws and fine the motorists, it could end their monthly 'pay-outs', as the beggars' earnings will be cut significantly.
As a sign of respect we brought bread for the children and a wad of bills in small denominations for the supervisors. With Tono keeping close to translate our questions we approached the group with confidence. We worked amongst the children and as I focused on the innocence of their faces the supervisor's frustration became apparent. I handed over a few thousand Rupia, with the intent to give more as we left but this only made them more volatile. After shooting for about half an hour and the responses to our questions getting shorter and more abrupt it felt as if it was probably time to leave. I was in the middle of the road when the supervisor in charge walked over to me singing and dancing literally in my face, chanting something that Tono wouldn't translate back to me. We handed over a few more thousand Rupia's and left the area. To this day I'm still unaware of what she was singing, whether it was a basic song for money or whether it was heartfelt hatred abusing me to leave the area, I'm not sure.
The following week I met with Henny Yusriani, a social worker at Yayasan Pelita Ilmu (YPI), an NGO in Jakarta, who strives to work with families to provide education for their children, both formal and informal. By initiating a bridging program they formed a transition process between the time that a child may have been out of school (begging, scavenging), to where they can logistically return to school but their absence may hamper learning efforts. YPI take them through a variety of skills from motor engineering to computer technology, so the children can explore what they're interested in and pursue formal education in a more structured fashion. Through a program called the "Income generating activity", YPI also work with parents of street singers to show them ways to generate income without taking their children out of school. By working with the family first, they face little resistance as they understand why the parents have taken their children out of school, and provide ways to remedy the income loss when they return to school. "
For more information go to http://www.ypi.or.id