Children accounted for 15 per cent of the beggars arrested in the Sultanate in 2017, according to the figures released by the Ministry of Social Development. Out of the 1,152 beggars (225 Omanis, 972 expatriates) arrested, 89 were below 12 years and 86 in the age group 12 to 18 years. A total of 521 were in the age group of 18 to 40 years, which included 320 men and 201 women. An official at the ministry said there are various types of begging: ‘apparent begging’, and ‘hidden begging’, which includes other activities such as sale of small goods or performance of some service.
There is also ‘seasonal begging, which is seen during Ramadhan, besides ‘professional’ and ‘electronic’ begging. “It (begging) is a social illness that harms society, distorts its image, creates dependency and affects the cohesion of community members,” said the official. “It causes emergence of non-productive members which leads to a rise in the number of job-seekers and threatens the comfort and security of the community,” he said. The maximum number of beggars were caught in Muscat Governorate (630), followed by Al Batinah South and North (203), Dhofar (136), Al Buraimi (42), Dhahirah (22), Al Dakhiliyah (12) and Al Sharqiyah (7).
A hundred of them were from the neighbouring countries and they were referred to the authorities concerned for taking action against them.
Article 297 of the Oman Penal Code condemns begging and imposes a prison term of not more than a year and a fine of not more than RO 100.
Zainab al Nassri