How can begging be stopped by fining those who give money?
Not every poor person becomes a beggar but almost every beggar is poor. Press reports that appear once in a while profiling “The rich beggar” should not mislead you; they are exceptions. Nor should you assume that “Oliver Twist gangs” exist either; they do, but only a few.
The fact that beggars pile on the agony and that we are deceived is no worse than what they have to live through. They are experiencing much more; they are extremely poor.
It is not a bad check; we are only buying a pack of tissues after all. Let us be fooled for that little bit.
When poverty, in any place in the world, is intertwined with disadvantages such as social disintegration or economic crisis, we see panhandling rise from the grave.
The emergence of panhandling as it is today corresponds to the period when capitalism began to develop in Europe. Since the 1970s, neoliberal policies, globalism and unemployment with economic crises have risen. Panhandling has also risen and been tied into a knot which is not able to be untangled.
The panhandling culture in Turkey corresponds with the image of underdeveloped and developing countries.
Aslıcan Kalfa-Topateş, the author of “Dilenciler” (Beggars), a book published by İletişim Yayınları, wrote: “In the West, mostly young men of the ‘homeless’ segment are begging. In underdeveloped and developing countries, the patriarchal codes are active; it is believed that a young man should work and make a living. Thus, in countries such as ours, there is a beggar profile made up of women, children and the old.”
When policies based on gender equality are weak and the lack of education in women is high, poverty first hits women and children.
When situations such as migration and war are combined with poverty, panhandling is fueled. We should not be surprised that Syrians have been added to the beggars in our country.
Unorganized begging is not a crime in our laws; it is a misdemeanor. Both the beggar and the person who gives money to the beggar can be fined. However, up until today, the person giving money has never been fined.
We have now learned the Istanbul police have formed a mobile team to fight panhandling and, from now on, those who give money to a beggar will be fined 219 Turkish Liras.
Apparently a decision was made to implement the law. Obviously panhandling has become a serious issue.
In the West there has been a zero tolerance policy toward beggars, but the West has not opted to fine those who give money to beggars.
Kalfa-Topateş wrote this fine was practiced in countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, “Punishing people who have given money to beggars is a much, much stricter practice than zero tolerance.”
In the West, donation boxes have been placed on the streets and a social campaign has been launched to deter people from giving money to beggars.
Instead of punishing those who give money to beggars, they have opted for this more constructive and humane method.
In Turkey, unless structural factors such as poverty, migration, the scarcity of urban means to make a living, the weakness of solidarity networks, under education and unsoundness are prevented, panhandling will never decrease or cease.
We should focus on policies to decrease poverty and unemployment and at the same time social service models concentrated on begging.
While Kalfa-Topateş was researching, the state was giving a cash payment of 400 to 500 liras to the families of children working on the streets: “It was said to the families, ‘Do not make your children work on the streets. Send them to school with this money.’ This is not the ideal solution but in practice I have seen it was highly beneficial. The 400-500 liras empowered the poor woman and helped her to direct her kid to school,” she wrote.
Instead of trying to prevent begging with harsh policies such as fines, which will never prove successful, social service models should be considered as well practices such as donation boxes.
Fining will not cure anybody; it would only eliminate the symptoms. And, the disease will absolutely come back again.