New Law in Chile Targets Street Beggars

WRITTEN BY STEVE SHEA [The Santiago Times, Monday, Nov. 7, 2011]

Parents who exploit children could face up to three years in jail.

Sen. Carlos Bianchi recently proposed a new law that would seek to discourage adults from using children to beg for money on the street. The law would carry a prison term of between 541 days and three years.

Photo by fanz/Flickr.

“Begging can be considered the worst form of child labor,” Angélica Marín, the head of the Department of Protection of Rights told La Tercera. “Children forced into begging can have poor psychological, physical and moral development.”

She went onto say that this is a practice ingrained in Chilean culture and, “it requires the rehabilitation of adults who, perhaps for generations, have used their children to ask for money.”

This latest legislation will target those adults who use children to beg, both directly and indirectly, meaning directly if the child is begging and indirectly if the parent is begging with a child present. Both instances would be subject to the same jail time.

The Ministry of Social Development released a report in early October that counted 785 children in Santiago who could be considered to be living in extreme poverty.

The Chilean government has implemented a number of new programs to help poverty stricken individuals, such as expanded subsidies that will reach 170,000 families.

Sen. Bianchi made it clear that all the fault should not be placed on those adults using children to beg, but also on the government for not providing enough programs for at-risk children.

“We must address the problem of parents having no place to send their children, so that instead of being on the street they can study, enjoy themselves, and are being properly fed,” he told La Tercera.

By Stephen Shea (

Copyright 2011 – The Santiago Times