Feature

Afghanistan: Where boys are kept as concubines

The practice of <em>bacha bazi,</em> which means &ldquo;boy for play,&rdquo; was banned by the Taliban during its rule in the 1990s, but it has returned in recent years, said Ghaith Abdul-Ahad in <em>The Guardian.<

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad
The Guardian (U.K.)

The ancient Afghan tradition of keeping boys as concubines is back, said Ghaith Abdul-Ahad. The practice of bacha bazi, which means “boy for play,” was banned by the Taliban during its rule in the 1990s, but it has returned in recent years.

The boys are typically dressed as girls, in harem pants and scarves, and trained as dancers. Their “owners” keep them “in a form of sexual slavery” and trot them out to dance for guests at private parties, dinners, and even weddings. The dancers have to be boys, because Afghan patriarchal culture forbids girls and women from performing for men.

The practice is now so widespread that it is an open part of the culture; DVDs of dancing boys are sold everywhere on the streets, aimed at the large market of men who can’t afford to keep their own bachas. Once the boys reach age 19, their owners must release them, and they can “reclaim their status as male,” although it’s often hard to overcome the stigma of having been a bacha.

Afghan authorities have done little for these abused children. Are they “powerless to stop” the practice, or do they merely lack the will?

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