Street children exist in every nation on earth, yet despite their extraordinary prevalence, scope, and gravity, the issue doesn’t receive enough attention in the media and public discourse. They are between the ages of 5 and 20 and dwell outside stations, in vacant buildings, under bridges, and in sewers. They go by the names “Gamines de la calle,” “Meninos de rua,” and “Enfants de la rue” in Brazil, Colombia, and Africa, respectively. Despite variations in how they are characterised, the severity of the issue is constant regardless of latitude. The street children live on the periphery of society without family or home; they have most likely been abandoned, are constantly subjected to prejudice and ghettoisation, and must regularly fight for their lives.
A street child is defined as “any girl or boy who has not attained adulthood, who has made the street (in the broadest sense of the word, including vacant homes, wasteland, etc.) his or her habitual abode and/or source of livelihood, and who is inadequately protected, directed, and supervised by responsible adults”, according to the Inter-NGO Program on Street Children and Youth. Within this definition, UNICEF identifies and distinguishes between street children and children on the street, i.e., between children who spend the day on the street but have a place to go back to at night, and street children who don’t. UNICEF estimates that there are 150 million street children worldwide, numbers that keep growing as poverty and armed conflict rise, so it is impossible to provide an accurate number.This issue affects every region in the world, despite contextual and geographic variations. It seems that these children are “invisible” because they are in fact ignored daily by most people they encounter on the street, they remain outside the social policies of governments, the focus of newspapers and the mass media, and as a result, also outside the public debate.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), which comprises the basic legal framework for the protection of children in the 196 member states of the Convention, clearly says that “States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child’s or his or her parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status. Every street child carries a tale of destitution, dysfunctional families, violence, persecution, and forced migration. Some families must send their children to the streets because they are too impoverished or unable to care for them due to illness, and they attempt to support the entire family by having their children drop out of school. As they struggle to survive, they encounter unpleasant people and situations.
They begin smoking cigarettes, then cannabis, and eventually crack and glue. They frequently start committing larceny and end up behind bars. When someone is released from jail, even after expressing a desire to be reintegrated into the family – which happens for those who are fortunate enough to be sponsored by an association – the family frequently rejects them because it is viewed as too shameful to have an ex-convict son. Children get caught in a loop of trouble: problem, street, jail, more street, more difficulties. These lives go frequently go unprotected, and their fundamental rights are not guaranteed by the social programs of states, which are either insufficient or non-existent. Daily violations include living in unsanitary, unhygienic conditions on the streets; contracting diseases like HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, and typhoid without access to medical care; being exposed to various forms of violence, abuse, and exploitation; and not having access to education, employment opportunities, or even simple recreational activities.
Street children in Morocco, like in other nations, roam the streets and reside in metropolitan areas to take advantage of the resources necessary for survival while attempting to blend into society as little as possible. The number of street children in Casablanca city-centre and surrounding areas is so overwhelming that it is difficult to comprehend why the local government is unconcerned about this issue. When they are keen on selling handkerchiefs, bracelets, and other items at traffic signals, one cannot pretend not to see them. Some of the activities that children engage in include drug use, drug usage by children, shoe shining, digging through trash bins and giving out kisses here and there to obtain money. Many of them are children under six, who are utterly abandoned, without any care or instruction. On their bodies, street kids carry deep scars of hopelessness. It is well known that street children are weak and vulnerable to various forms of abuse and exploitation. The employers who take advantage of young children have no morals and merely want to use them for nothing in return, preying on their ignorance and the lack of oversight by the government.
In Morocco, there are primary reception centres helping a small number of street children’s basic needs, but there aren’t any facilities that can guide the beneficiaries down the route to social reintegration. There are regional organisations, such as the Casablanca-based “Wilidat lkhir,” whose volunteers raise money to buy food, clothing, and other essentials. These items are subsequently given out to those in need in hospitals and areas with a high concentration of street children. However, it hardly scratches the surface of what these kids require. The public’s sensitivity to the existence of street children is reflected in the authorities’ heavy-handed approach towards them.
However, understanding the living circumstances and needs of street children is insufficient to guide policy and good practice. Islamic law establishes the Kafala (also known as the Kafalah) as a means of protection for youngsters who are abandoned or come from underprivileged households. Kafala entails that a person of age (often a close relative) who makes a declaration will be responsible for the care, maintenance, and education of a minor who has been abandoned by his or her parents or placed in an inappropriate family setting. It is a mechanism used to protect youngsters who are living in unfavourable familial settings and require legal representation.
The Kafala does not involve any parental relationship between the minor and the person of age, as the minor does not legally become a member of his or her family unit, and its effects last until the minor reaches the age of majority. It is the tradition in Islamic nations that a filiation relationship can only have a biological origin, and as a result, any extra-parental bond is prohibited, as Islamic law does not recognise the institution of adoption. The child’s legal position always remains connected to his or her family of origin, and the youngster retains their last name. Additionally, the custodian of the child has no representative or tutelary powers; these functions can only be performed by the public authorities. Children from Morocco, for example, are eligible for Kafala, which is only for domestic adoptions. Giving children, girls, and teenagers a sense of safety and security is not just a need that should be satisfied, but it is also a right that must be defended and safeguarded by the family, the community, and any other institution or organisation acting on their behalf.