Throughout the world Afghanistan is associated with war, oppression of women and radical Islamists. And, in fact, for a reason. However, today Vostok Magazine will tell you about another though no less sad phenomenon of Afghan's everyday life – bacha bazi.
In Persian “bacha bazi” means “playing with a boy” or “children's play” and appears to be one of the favorite means of entertainment of wealthy Afghans. Boys from 11 to 18 years old are dressed in women's clothes and made dance in front of the audience which consists of men only. Usually the man who had paid the most then spends a night with the boy. The scale of this phenomenon in the country is so great that no holiday goes without bacha bazi.
Boys are usually picked among local beggars and the ones with the most feminine looks are chosen. Since there is a huge number of families with many children and a very low standard of living in Afghanistan parents often sell their sons to bacha bazi lovers even bearing in mind clear understanding of what fate awaits their children. Then a “pimp” teaches a boy to dance and play musical instruments. As soon as he understands the student is ready for a performance, the boy is brought to a jamboree where he pleases men. The fee given for the show almost entirely goes to the "pimp". The boy himself only gets an insignificant reward which he usually gives to his poverty-stricken family.
Among wealthy Afghans it is thought to be prestigious to have several bacha bazi boys at their service. They usually take boys with them while hanging around thus demonstrating high social position.
It is worth noting that boys themselves perceive the situation differently. Some think of their “craft” as of a kind of a "social elevator", assuming the presence of an influential patron will help them acquire important contacts in the future. Indeed, there have been cases when a “master” gave the boy a job, a wife and sometimes even education. Yet, the vast majority of bacha bazi boys ends up deeply traumatized since childhood because of the humiliation and cruelty on the part of the exploiters and prefers not to talk about their experiences. Those boys who refuse influential men's intimacy are most frequently raped, then killed. Attempt to escape from the "owners" meets similar fate.
Sexual exploitation of underage boys is the sequence of the fact that single Afghan men can not maintain contact with the women who are not members of their family. Unmarried men and those unsatisfied with their sex life in marriage have to look for different objects to satisfy their sexual needs. The “dancing boys” have become such an object.
Laws of Afghanistan forbid the bacha bazi practice. In media police and lawyers stress out the unacceptability and savagery of this phenomenon. However, just a few days after communication with the media those men can be seen enjoying the dances of boys in women's clothes. Quite obviously, legislative and executive power in the country condemn this phenomenon in name only, while in practice bacha bazi is encouraged.
The Koran forbids pedophilia and homosexuality, but the vast majority of Afghans does not know Arabic and can not read the Koran independently. They have to be acquainted with the religious norms through family or clergy who often do not mind the "dancing boys". Curiously, during the Taliban's rule bacha bazi was strictly forbidden as an occupation contadicting Sharia but after the fall of the Taliban only few have seriously tried to counter the spread of child prostitution in Afghanistan.
The practice of bacha bazi has a number of extremely negative social consequences for Afghanistan. First, there is a huge number of victims of sexual violence with broken psyche. According to some reports, at least 50% of men in Southern Afghanistan have had sex with underage boys. The victims, in turn, as adults often want to take it out on others for the spoiled childhood, thus becoming a new generation of pedophiles. The situation is aggravated by the fact that interest in bacha bazi is a sign of a high social status, making the "entertainment" even more popular.
Secondly, the use of boys for sexual pleasures only worsens women's position, confirming a common Afghan proverb: «Women are for children, boys are for pleasure». There is a danger for women that they will be perceived as an object, performing exceptionally reproductive function, if normal heterosexual sexual relationship finally gives place to the fashion for pedophilia.
Thirdly, bacha bazi is one of the factors exacerbating the political situation inside the country and abroad. Talibs and their followers accuse commanders of sodomy thus adding fuel to the fire of everlasting conflicts on Afghan territory. Prevalence of bacha bazi has a negative impact on relations between the Government of Afghanistan, NATO and the United States as the latter seriously consider if they should continue the development of a country where sex with children is a measure of prestige. Joel Brinkley, correspondent of the newspaper «San Francisco Chronicle», stated: «Why then the forces of America and NATO fight and die to protect dozens of thousands of proud pedophiles whose concentration per capita in Afghanistan is more than anywhere else in the world?».
The question is a rhetorical one, of course, minding the fact that the turn of Afghanistan into ruins was contributed by the constant struggle of European powers for influence, in which the USA plays indeed a a significant role. Naturally, bacha bazi is an extremely destructive and cruel phenomenon. Yet at the same time fighting it apart from the other problems of Afghanistan is simply meaningless, because under the conditions of low status of women in society and widespread poverty the appearance of child prostitution is inevitable.