The Afghan practice of bacha bazi, or “boy play,” has made a resurgence in recent years. Men use orphans and poor young males to become their “dancing boys” as forms of entertainment. These exploitations often end up in rape and sexual abuse of the vulnerable young males.
The boys dress up as females, wearing fake breasts and makeup and dresses, as they dance for the older men.
The practice is called bacha bãzī, which literally means “boy play.”
TRANSLATION: A crime against humanity.
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— Afghanistan Today (@afghantoday) August 26, 2014
The older men will use males as young as 10 years old.
Abdul, who did not provide his real name, showed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) how he dances.
“I used to work as a street trader,” he said. “When I saw the money which dancers got I stopped working on the streets. I was really happy when I started getting this kind of money. It was a lot. I started dancing because of my family’s bad financial situation.”
Afghanistan outlawed bacha bāzī, but authorities do little to enforce the law. Some videos show police officers participating in the dance events.
“The police don’t ask why we’re doing it, but they threaten to arrest us. Many times they demand that we dance and have sex with them or give them money,” continued Abdul.
“They forced me into their car and took me for a ride,” described another male to FRE/RL. “They forced me to dance for them. They took me to a village. One time, two men had sex with me. Another time, one man did.”
When he turned 18 years old, the men threw him away with the trash because they considered him a man.
“I will never forget what these people did to me as long as I live,” he said. “I’ve lost my mind. I’m biting my nails all the time. I have psychological problems.”
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The Taliban prohibited bacha bāzī because they considered it un-Islamic. The tradition has resurged following their rout post-September 11.
“Warlords dominate large areas of the country and the practice has now spread to the big cities, including Kabul,” reported RFE/RL.
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— Khaama Press (KP) (@khaama) August 20, 2014
Bacha Bazi pic.twitter.com/VZnGGuVCyI
— Dr. Zakar Naik (@CRESCENTST4R) December 11, 2013
“This is child trafficking,” insisted Sima Samar of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. “The boys are abducted and taken from one province to another. The children are kept in the company of powerful armed commanders and forced to become dancing boys.”
Even though it is against the law, U.S. soldiers have found themselves in difficult situations due to policy promoting the tolerance of Afghan culture. As Breitbart News national security reporter Edwin Mora reported in August, at least one soldier, Sgt 1st Class Charles Martland, is facing punitive measures for striking a child rapist.
Col. Steve Johnson told reporters in 2015 the “solders should tolerate all Afghan customs.”
“You cannot try to impose American values and American norms onto the Afghan culture because they’re completely different… We can report and we can encourage them,” he suggested. “We do not have any power or the ability to use our hands to compel them to be what we see as morally better.”
A dispute over a boy to sexually abuse likely caused a gunfight in Afghanistan in July. Sultan Mohammad Ebadi, the provincial governor, “said preliminary reports indicate that irresponsible armed individuals started an argument over a young boy which led to gun battle between the two groups.”
In 2010, the BBC’s Rustam Qobil attended a wedding where a boy was used as entertainment. The boy, who went by Omid, took the job to make money for his poor family. He usually receives $2 for the night, but men took him to hotels where they would gang rape him. He said the men were too rich and powerful for him to go to the police.
Qobil attended another event in Kabul, “less than a mile from the government headquarters,” even though many people tried to convince him the practice only occurs in remote areas. He met a man with three dancing boys. He claimed he paid them well and did not have sex with them. He did not encourage that, but Qobil witnessed one dancing boy “offering drugs to the men around him.”