23 November 2010

Prejudice towards "STREETKIDS" and their Deviance

A global issue that is affecting our Canadian society as well as developing countries is the intolerance towards deviant social behaviour in street kids. Deviant behaviours are socially unacceptable behaviours; behaviours that violate the norms of society. In this case, street kids panhandle, and engage in other activities in order to survive. People tend to stigmatize street youth rather than understanding their problems. Street kids are victims of several social, economic factors that influence them to act against the norm of society. Unawareness, prejudice, the lack of outreaching facilities are reasons due to which street kids in Canada and around the globe are involved in crimes, deviant behaviours. Effective measures to globally eradicate this issue can be taken by decreasing intolerance towards stigmatized street kids.
The article focuses on the deteriorating conditions of Iraqi street children. In Iraq, street kids are unable to gain daily necessities; food, shelter, water, security. Developing countries have higher amounts of street kids than developed countries. In these countries youths suffer from higher amounts of poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, and abusive parents. Youth institutions that industrialized countries have are rarely available in these countries. Many children on the street resort to illicit drugs in an effort to forget the traumas they face daily. “You just have to smell this powder and you feel much better. You don’t remember you’re hungry or that you have to go back home.” said 14 year-old Bassel Malek, who takes a daily dose of heroin to get by. (IRIN News, 26 December 2005. “Street children face hunger and abuse”). Only a few youth aid programmes are available by the Ministry of Public Work and Social Affairs in Iraq. A recent statistics conducted by the Iraq Ministry of Planning reveal that the number of Iraqi street children has reached to 5 million. Several street kids’ at the age of 11 who are supposed to be at school are selling sweets, goods at traffic lights. Their parents are unable to support them, many are abusive, and force them to work for many hours in a day to provide for their family. According to the article, many street kids are sexually abused while they work in streets. Most cases are not reported to the police because their parents are afraid of being penalised for permitting their children to work on streets. Unfortunately, their hard work does not pay off, they face malnutrition and long for the meals that they see on television. The health workers state that most of these children face regular malnourishment. Inadequate government funds, and educational programs makes it impossible to change the poor living conditions of street kids. Their parents cannot afford to provide them with proper education as their country does not have free secondary education. These factors affect the lifestyle of street kids, without proper education, they are unable to rise above their poor living conditions and prosperity. Intergenerational mobility; that is the changes in social position of a child relative to their parents is impossible as well. Many street kids’ parents live in either slums or on the streets, if proper education was provided, chances of street kids becoming into a clerk or a teacher would be possible, they would not live on street as their parents did. But, the expensive educational programs are unaffordable to parents to educate millions of street kids. In addition, their society is intolerant towards their daily behaviours for survival. “I hate it when children come over to my car selling candy with their dirty hands,” said Najida Hadi, a resident of the capital. “I wish all of them would be put in a separate place from the rest of society.” (IRIN News, 26 December 2005. “Street children face hunger and abuse”). Some people use violence to avoid the children, by hitting them through the car window when they approach them. They lack empathy towards these kids, some even use extreme violence. The article reports that Amir was hit with a penknife by a driver. This kind of prejudice and stereotyping makes it hard for street children to survive. As a result, street kids are deprived of life chances; their opportunities to provide themselves with positive living conditions and favourable life experiences. They continue to act against the norms of society to survive.
On the other hand, North America has several facilities that aid street kids. In Canada, Toronto has institutions and programs such as Covenant House, Youth Pathways Project. But, many street youths may not have the motivation to take their help. Many youths may not be aware of these programs. In Canada, only 17% of street kids have paid employment, the rest may be involved in crime or are still looking for support. Employing them is an issue as most of them have no fixed address. They lack work experience, most have no way of communication (email, phone), many have no money for transportation; limited for job search. Employers may not hire them because of they are not impressed by the way they appear, they do not have the right clothing, and the right literacy skills. About 25% of street youth in Canada have several legal problems which makes them less trustworthy in the eyes of managers. Even if some of them may be very skilled and talented, employers would regard the spoiled identity of homelessness as a good reason to not hire them. These problems make them unfit to earn and survive. Many street kids rely on drug trafficking, robbery to survive. With the growing taxes and high unemployment rates, street youth are unable to survive. This has significantly increased the amount of crimes that street kids take part in. The Shout Clinic, Toronto, statistics concluded that 36% of street youth earn money by panhandling (begging) or squeegeeing (window washing), 19% do break and enters or sell drugs, only 18% receive social assistance, and 10% are involved in sex trade work. A few obtain food by rummaging through garbage cans, stealing from grocery stores, or tricking fast-food restaurants to replace a meal they claimed to have bought and lost. Many street youths conform to their peers to form groups that are involved in activities such as drug trafficking, robbery, violence. Illicit drug use rates in Vancouver, Canada is very high. The municipal government of Vancouver spends more money per capita to deal with illicit drugs than any other Canadian province due to the high rates of street kid unemployment. Therefore, these factors contribute to their disobedience towards the authority (police, institutions). This not only creates a more dysfunctional society, but it also makes it hard for them to conform back into society. If our government would give them proper training for jobs instead of just providing them with necessities, then there could be a development. In a recent survey by the Shout Clinic, Toronto, 51.8% of street youth felt that any job was better than welfare. As welfare can only provide them with sufficient money to cover rent and the rest of their necessities could go uncovered. Street kids want to work because need extra money to gain life chances, that is, good living conditions, living conditions, and material goods just as a normal teenager does.
Similar to Iraq, in our Canadian society street kids also suffer from intolerance. Several youngsters are runaways due to abusive parents or neglecting parents. It could also be because of family tensions, such as their parents getting divorce, or them being sent to foster care. Increasing amounts of teenage pregnancies is a significant factor as well. Several teen mothers are unable to attend school and rear a child when their parents are unwilling to help. Many motels and apartments disagree with the idea of renting rooms to teen females who are pregnant. Studies have found that the managers have a problem with renting rooms to teen mothers as they think that teen females may not be able to pay the rent. Employers do not think of young pregnant mothers as a good candidate for the jobs as they think that they are physically not that useful, and there would be too many issues to deal with if they hired them (issues such as pregnancy leaves, health problems). The government should provide more support to teen mothers by helping with daycare, and jobs that may help them sustain. They should train young female mothers with skills that would be useful in various jobs. This could make their lives much easier. Unemployed teen mothers are more prone to being involved in drug trafficking and other illegal activities to support herself and her child. Studies have shown that Canadian youth generally leave home around the age of 15. 64% of homeless young men are under 25 years old and 72% of females are between the ages of 19 and 25. Street youth who may want to fit back into society find a hard time doing so because of the levels of stigmatism that exists in our society. Stigma is a label that is used to devalue members of deviant social groups, in this case; street kids are stigmatized as “bad”. Street youth are labelled for their bad reputations and are not given a chance to fit back into society. For instance, if a street youth were to apply for a job at a fast food restaurant and had a history in illegal activities, then the employer may not consider her/him to be suitable for the job. Street kids are not given a chance to start a new life. They are being stigmatized to be involved in criminal activities that they no longer engage in. As a result they cannot receive jobs, are unable to survive and are ultimately forced to be involved in criminal activities again. I think that society should focus more on preventing and supporting deviance of street kids instead of having prejudicial feeling against them. Conflict theorists argue that the criminal justice system disregards the white collar crimes and focuses on crimes committed by the poor. Similarly, many people in our society disregard the conditions of street kids and focus more on the nuisance that deviant street youth cause.
I personally think that the class difference between the high/ middle class; us and the lower class; street kids is a major factor for intolerance toward street kids. We are so immersed in our petty problems (such as: maintain our garden, taking care of our pets) that we are unable to open up our eyes and see the poor living conditions of street kids. As shown in the article, “The burden of stuff”, by Gord Henderson, we are so immersed in our selfish lives, that we think only we have the biggest problems. Whereas, street kids with major problems, around the globe are struggling for daily bread. People who close windows on street kids that sell goods for a living, we see them as nuisance instead of understanding their situation. While living in India, I have seen the poor living conditions of street kids. Many street kids in India have live in slums near drains. Their parents earn low wages by working as servants for abusive managers. Their parents cannot afford to give them education due to the lack of jobs. Indian ministers misuse funds for personal purposes instead of creating programs to aid street kids. As a result, street kids in India continue to sell goods on streets for a living, for the rest of their lives. This experience has made me more tolerant towards street kids. So, without seeing or having knowledge about street kids, people cannot understand towards their deviant behaviours. I think that the government of every country should initiate awareness about street kids to citizens. This way, more people would have knowledge about street kids. Street youth need more help of government with funds and programs in order to reduce the evolving problem. This could help them become more tolerant towards street kids, giving street kids a chance to conform back into society. This will help us achieve a more functional society.
In conclusion, deviant behaviour of street kids in developing and developing countries are often seen through prejudicial eyes. Many people in society are unable to understand the terrible conditions of street youth. Street kids are deprived of life chances and are forced to act against the norms of society. Educational programs for the people in society and for teens could promote open mindedness and empathy towards street kids. More government funds and programs could significantly reduce street kid rates in developing countries.

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