Criminalizing Poverty

September 5, 2007 at 9:51 pm 3 comments

Indonesia’s North Sumatra is now criminalizing poverty.

After generations of war, corruption, civil strife, and colonial mismanagement Indonesia’s “for the people” government has begun fining anyone diabolical enough to drop a coin into the hand of a starving homeless mother of seven. But the goodwill doesn’t stop there. The new rule of philanthropy will also imprison the evil beggar for up to six weeks. I guess they are trying to live up to “the good ol’ days” of Suharto?

Apparently, these wicked people are not only stretching out their evil claws to pluck up coins to buy rice or flour and all the other niceties of which the rest of us can only dream. But it seems that some of them are also using the ill-gotten gain for such luxuries as medicine for sick infants and sometimes even clothing.

No, I don’t give money to every person who asks for it. And I have felt harassed from time to time by what seems from my perspective to be overly aggressive panhandling. I am also not so naïve as to believe that none of these people are drug addicts, or con-men. But anyone who believes that everyone on the street deserves to be there or that there is a scam behind every skin and bones mother carrying an emaciated infant is not only a fool; but is also so hard-hearted that they deserve a taste of that life themselves.

And let us not forget, we are not talking about New York City or Chicago where soup kitchens, homeless shelters and mega-churches abound. We are talking about North Sumatra, Indonesia where poverty is the norm and government assistance consists of a slow horrifying death. Have you ever seen the poverty that pervades many Asian countries? 50% of the population of Indonesia lives on less than $3 per day. Please don’t insult your own intelligence by believing these beggars are hopping into BMW’s at the end of the day and driving back to their mansions.

One of the links below is from the opinion page of The Jakarta Post.

I quote “S. WIRAWAN of Tangerang, Banten”:

“There is a place for everyone. The handicapped and the aged should be cared for at special homes. Unemployed youth should be encouraged to take up available jobs.”

This is a tacit approval of the unfortunate fact that in some Asian countries having a visible physical handicap automatically makes you unemployable. Being a single mother is also frowned upon by most employers, but I guess S. WIRAWAN of Tangeran, Banten overlooked them in his round-up of undesirables.

I’m all about paying your own way, but I also have a heart for the disadvantaged.

The Jakarta Opinion and Editorial
Street children rally to oppose draft law on vagrants
Indonesian city to fine tourists who give to beggars
Taking Off (A blog by The Chicago Tribune’s Travel Staff)



Entry filed under: Asia, Poverty. Tags: , , , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Denise  |  September 8, 2007 at 10:29 am

    I read somewhere that of the 100% of people in poverty, something like 84% of them are women and children, what does that tell us?

  • 2. Joe  |  September 8, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    My mind is always boggled when I see things like this. It’s the hypocracy of religion. (Being generous to poor and needy is claimed as part of all creeds.) Indonesia is 88% Muslim at present but it wouldn’t matter what they were. No doubt the leaders pray publicly.
    What happens to the alms tax that is part Islamic (and many other’s) duty ?
    Thought: If they prosecuted the beggars would they expect them to pay the fines imposed ?

  • 3. sluggabohn  |  September 8, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    Denise: I haven’t seen a specific statistic, but in my travels (specifically in Asia) I would guess that you are right on.

    Joe: I can’t disagree with you. I wonder how many starving people could be fed by selling the Vatican’s gold?


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