Daily Times, June 16, 2015
Sexual exploitation in Afghanistan
The sexual exploitation of children in Afghanistan is such that boys are bought and sold like animals or commodities, and made to dance for and have sex with different people
By Musa Khan Jalalzai
In a society like Afghanistan, where a man cannot even look at a woman or girl in the cities and towns unless he has entered into a marriage contract with her, the men resort to Bacha Bazi (male-child prostitution). In this sexually repressed country, sections of society partake in unhealthy and abusive sexual relationships. Bacha Bazi is an old tradition in Afghanistan, in which young boys are dressed up as girls and made to perform at private venues. The practice of male-child prostitution is a serious lingering social issue that is rarely discussed in the print and electronic media of Afghanistan. This tradition has deep roots in the war-torn society. This business is more widespread in Afghanistan than it is in Pakistan and Iran, as the trafficking of young boys for paedophilic sexual violence has reached its peak. The practice is increasingly becoming a national shame, involving politicians, police commanders, army generals, religious clerics, parliamentarians and war criminals.
In 2013, the US State Department released a report warning that male prostitution was on the rise in Afghanistan. “The practice of ‘Bacha Bazi’ (dancing boys) — which involved powerful or wealthy local figures and businessmen sexually abusing young boys who were trained to dance in female clothes — was on the rise,” the report noted. Reports of life-threatening conditions and abuse in jails, including rape by government officials are also matters of great concern.
Daily Times, Jun. 16, 2015
This culture has spread to all sections of society. Children are sexually abused in safe houses, jails, police stations, guest houses and on streets. They are kidnapped from school, streets and parks and sold into male prostitution. More than 60 percent of gang raped and abused children die. To feed their families, young children are sold into male prostitution. Afghan men who keep Bachas (boys) for sexual pleasure have to be able to provide everything required by the child partner, including money, vehicles and clothes.
The sexual exploitation of children in Afghanistan is such that boys are bought and sold like animals or commodities and made to dance for and have sex with multiple people. The owner of the child has the right to influence, beat or kill him if he does not obey his master. The vast majority of these children end up deeply traumatised because of a childhood of physical humiliation and abuse. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission report of 2014 says: “These children usually come from poor families who are kept by some rich individuals as bodyguard, apprentice, servant at home, shop, bakery, workshop, hotels, restaurants, and other paid jobs or through coercion, threat, trickery, intimidation and enticement. They often fall victim to sexual abuses. In some parts of the country, these children while wearing female clothes are used as dancers in parties and wedding ceremonies. At the end of ceremonies, they are usually taken to private houses or hotels and raped; sometimes, they are even gang-raped.”
In North Afghanistan, child abuse, kidnapping and Bacha Bazi causes deep concerns for families living under the thumb of war criminals, commanders, private militias and rogue police officers. On June 6, 2015, I received a shocking email from the Federation of Afghanistan’s Civil Societies that painted a heartbreaking picture of child abuse. According to my understanding of the report, it is an undeniable fact that children have not been safe in the country during the last two decades of civil war. Warlords are extensively involved in child abuse and abduction in the northern provinces of the country where the trafficking of male and female children, aged 13 to 15, is on the rise.
After the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, Bacha Bazi became a profitable business in the northern provinces. Local commanders, warlords and police officers say that women are to give children and boys are to give them pleasure. They take their Bacha with them to offices, houses and picnics and feel no shame in introducing them to their wives and family members. Wives have no right to object to their husbands having male partners. The Federation of Afghanistan’s Civil Societies’ email revealed that young boys are being sold by around 50,000 to 100,000 Afghans. This business has flourished in the Mazar-e-Sharif, Kunduz, Baghlan, Balkh, Faryab and Ghor provinces.
In April 2015, a 16-year-old boy was repeatedly raped by Taliban soldiers before being forced to undertake a suicide mission. The teenager was identified as Bilal and was sent to carry out a suicide attack on a police station in Bagrami District of Kabul. According to a report of the National Directorate of Security, Bilal confessed in his video statement that before the planned suicide attack, a Taliban commander named Abuzar taped his mouth shut and raped him. He was later sexually abused by three other Taliban fighters. In Herat and Faryab provinces, two five-year-old boys were gang raped. It is common for boys to be kidnapped and advertised for sale.
A former mujahedeen commander told IRIN News that he had kept a 14-year-old boy for two years. The sexual exploitation of young boys is the consequence of the fact that Afghan men cannot be in contact with women without the consent of their relatives. Therefore the only way for them to get sexual satisfaction is through relationships with young boys. On August 20, 2014, the Independent Human Rights Commission of Afghanistan released a new report on Bacha Bazi, after conducting a long survey. The report accused Afghan police officers of hiring children for sexual intercourse. In April 2015, a 17-year-old boy was raped and tortured in Farah province. About 65 rape cases were recorded in six provinces and most of the rape victims were children under the age of 13. Police officers and militia commanders take advantage of the poverty in which these children live, forcing the young boys to dance for them.
When a dance party ends at midnight, the owner of the boy shares him with friends in a safe house or hotel. The boy is raped and abused repeatedly. However, in Afghan law, Bacha Bazi has not been defined and there is no specific provision for it. In 2013, the US State Department released a report warning that male prostitution was on the rise in Afghanistan. “The practice of ‘Bacha Bazi’ (dancing boys) — which involved powerful or wealthy local figures and businessmen sexually abusing young boys who were trained to dance in female clothes — was on the rise,” the report noted. Reports of life-threatening conditions and abuse in jails, including rape by government officials are also matters of great concern.
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