Mutilating Children To Make Better Beggars

MrRING

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Comics writer Peter David got into some social media trouble for an opinion he had heard while in Europe that some Romani parents would purposefully mutilate their children to make them more effective & heartbreaking beggars. Peter David heard it and thought it was the truth, but is it an actual urban legend or just something one person told the comics writer?

Here's where he talks about what he heard:
https://www.peterdavid.net/2016/10/08/me-and-my-big-mouth/
The larger problem was that suddenly my mind flashed back to 1993, when I was in Romania, in Bucharest, for the filming of a movie there. I was being guided around and then I saw something. And I wrote about it back then, and I will reprint the pertinent section here:

We go into the department store, take the escalator to the third floor. As we pass the second, I can’t believe what I see.


A child, a girl, somewhere between five and eight years old, is following her mother, calling after her. Her skin is dark. She might have been beautiful, if given a chance.

She is on her knees. Walking on her knees.

Sort of.

Her legs don’t bend back. They are bent forward, at the knees.

Her body is teetering at about an 80 degree angle, like a Gumby or a collapsing marionette. She half-pulls, half-shuffles along, sliding on her calves.

My guide sees what I’ve spotted. His face is impassive.

“What the hell is wrong with her?” I whisper. Grasping at the only explanation I can, I say, “Chernobyl?”

“Gypsies,” he replies.

I don’t understand, and tell him so.

“You see a lot of gypsy children like that,” he explains. “When they’re a few months old, sometimes their parents break their knees or their elbows, or put out an eye. They figure it will help them make more money when they beg.”


The Comics Beat website talks about the Romani take on the situation here:
http://www.comicsbeat.com/romani-op...ponds-to-peter-davids-anti-romani-statements/
 

Mythopoeika

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This does happen in India and Pakistan, but I'm not sure about the Romani. It's not impossible, is it?
 

Min Bannister

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Yes, when I saw the thread title I thought of the "rat children" of Pakistan. It really does sound like a UL but no, unfortunately it is not impossible. There is the current Govanhill sell your own children for sex story after all so breaking a few legs suddenly looks quite mild. :( But who knows? I certainly don't want to believe it but it is hard to imagine what sort of lack of access to healthcare could result in children's knees being on backwards.
 

Xanatic*

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The Victor Hugo story The Man Who Laughs features this. Slumdog Millionaire too I think. Sadly I have no knowledge of wether it's true. The rat children of Pakistan might just be due to their like of inbreeding in that country.
 

James_H

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I'm pretty sure it happens in China and maybe Hong Kong. I've passed extremely mutilated beggars and people have said to me that that was the reason.

EDIT: here's a news report about it happening in Guangdong
EDIT 2: Here's a Chinese website that posts pictures of kidnapped beggar children, hoping to reunite them with their parents.
 

MrRING

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Hmmm.. so did Peter David get brickbats for no reason about some Romani engaging in such behavior?
 

Min Bannister

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Hmmm.. so did Peter David get brickbats for no reason about some Romani engaging in such behavior?
Without proper investigation it is hard to tell. I feel a bit sceptical of the rebuttal though. Just because a group of people are treated badly, doesn't mean that absolutely none of them are capable of terrible behaviour. Though it probably makes it harder to get to the truth.
 

escargot

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When I worked in kids' homes with troubled teenagers I certainly came across families where the parents had put their own kids into prostitution. Some kids were in care to help them escape this abuse. (One of the worst things I saw was a huge dragon tattoo covering half the torso of a young teenage girl. She'd had it since she was 13, apparently because her mother believed Chinese men see tattooed women as prostitutes and would pay more for a young white tattooed girl.)
 

Xanatic*

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Prostitution is just profit though. Handicapping a child in your care, that might not be as good as regards costs/benefits.
 

JamesWhitehead

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I once started to research the Ballad of Mary Arnold but discovered that Paul Slade had done it better already.

The broadsides are the only record of the case and the chosen method of blinding a child with carnivorous beetles in walnut-shells seems lurid in the extreme. The ballad is included in the Penguin Book of Ballads and reproduced in Paul Slade's article. :fork:
 

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I've just typed all this from memory and can find no evidence whatsoever on the 'net for it!
Think I read it years ago in the magazine.

There's also the tradition of 'dwarfing' children by feeding them certain plant extracts as babies. Daisies were allegedly used for this as it was noticed that other plants growing near them didn't reach their full height. There's a painting of a dwarf child next to a display of daisies which is supposed to represent her 'treatment'.
 

Xanatic*

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I thought they put the kids in bottles.
 

maximus otter

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I distinctly recall reading reports of - Indian? Pakistani? - families deliberately crippling and/or mutilating kids to increase their "begability". I recall that one technique involved injecting household bleach into their joints. Lovely.

I don't recall ever hearing or reading about this activity being connected with gypsy/roma/traveller types. My instinct would be that - if it occurred - it would merely be families making a pragmatic decision to exploit the results of generations of inbreeding to some financially-useful end, rather than methodically laming their offspring.

maximus otter
 

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I recall Richard (Watership Down) Adams, in his autobiography, telling of his time in just-pre-independence India, in the latter stages of his service in World War II. His Army unit were told by their, Indian, liaison chap with the locals -- in matter-of-fact, but not approving, terms -- of this common practice among the begging community in those parts. Adams had led a fairly sheltered early life: had never before had any inking of the notion that anyone could think to do such a thing, and was utterly appalled.

This, and other abuses against children learned of in a World War II context, largely inspired Adams's novel Shardik. (This novel, and others by him, did not altogether impress me -- found them to come across as, in a highly unsubtle way, impassioned preaching rather than literature; but be that as it may, his horror at such strategies for making beggar kids more money-generating, on the part of those who should love and guide said kids, was strong and genuine.)
 

James_H

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I'm pretty sure it happens in China and maybe Hong Kong. I've passed extremely mutilated beggars and people have said to me that that was the reason.

EDIT: here's a news report about it happening in Guangdong
EDIT 2: Here's a Chinese website that posts pictures of kidnapped beggar children, hoping to reunite them with their parents.

I'm in the mainland now so I can't use Google; necessity drives me into the arms of Bing! search. Look what happens if a result is not found...
 

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James_H

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I went to Shenzhen the other day (mainland China, just across the border from HK) and saw a beggar whose body was badly deformed in such a way that it could have only have got like that by having his bones broken deliberately as an infant. The capacity for some people to do evil things never ceases to amaze me.
 
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