Posts Tagged 'Afghanistan'

Dancing Boys and Girls in Afghanistan

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=afghanistan+boy&iid=8168533″ src=”f/3/7/b/US_Military_Conducts_94b7.jpg?adImageId=12633674&imageId=8168533″ width=”380″ height=”249″ /]
I recently saw the documentary The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan, on the subject of Bacha Bazi, where “Prepubescent children are sold to wealthy or powerful men for entertainment and sexual activities.” It is deeply troubling to think about any form of pederasty being conducted in such an open way, particularly where the child is considered a status symbol of some kind, and there is a real danger of violence should they try to escape their situation.

In watching the documentary (and I have to praise the journalist for such a risky undertaking, the practitioners of Bacha Bazi are often warlords powerful in the region), it becomes clear that in making prepubescent boys dress like women and dance, then (often) rape or sexually assault them in some way (repeatedly, over time), that there is not only a terrible culture of pedophilia, but that it is in part related to the power dynamics between men and women; these men are accustomed to sexual relationships where they have the power, where they are significantly stronger and control all aspects of the relationship; women are less available to them, so they exploit similarly weak people within the society.

What struck me was that as horrifying as this practice is, it would be perceived as slightly less egregious if the dancing sex slaves were female. There are few people who are not deeply disturbed by children being sold into prostitution (except for these reprehensibles), however, as one person said about the doc, it combines two ‘taboos’ – the pedophilia taboo and the homosexual taboo.

Now, obviously, as far as I am concerned, there is no sexual-orientation taboo, sex with children is rape and disgusting regardless of the sex of the people involved, but I do think my co-viewer had a point in terms of ‘general opinion’ in that even if people don’t think homosexuality is wrong, they might find gay pedophilia grosser than straight pedophilia.

Does this apply to other, less controversial taboos? Perhaps – an incestuous pedophile might seem worse than a non-related pedophile, because they pervert the role not just of an adult but of a guardian. There is an added level of betrayal to moral conduct.

This then implies something about sexual relationships in general – that not only is straight sex privileged, but it is privileged even in criminal situations.

I think, too, that the dancing boys, in putting a male face into a commonly female situation, underscores the point that rape is about power and not about male frailty in the face of women’s sexuality. One might be less inclined to challenge female sex slavery because it falls within the parameters of standard male dominated power structures.

But it’s not just about gender – the dancing boys are also significantly about class. It is poor, disadvantaged families whose sons are bought or tricked from them. The power that these men wield is largely due to their financial situation, which allows them to buy political safety as well as poor children.

At the end of the documentary, the journalist reports what he has found to the UN, we learn that while this adds to the file, there is still little to be done – although one boy is helped to escape his enslavement, and charges are brought, they are soon dropped, and the police chief is back watching some of the dancing boys with the other child-slave-owning pederasts.

If a country has a culture where such behavior is politely ignored, what hope is there for any real human rights?


Talking to the Taliban?

[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=afghanistan&iid=7719736″ src=”a/a/e/d/Members_Of_The_1f62.jpg?adImageId=9669622&imageId=7719736″ width=”380″ height=”240″ /]The UN has had “secret peace talks” with the Taliban.

An official statement from the Taliban leadership in response to today’s conference warned that “attempts by the enemy to bribe the mujahideen, offering them money and employment to abandon jihad, are futile”. However, it added what appeared to be a conciliatory note, saying that it was waging a jihad only to “liberate” Afghan territory and posed “no threat to neighbouring countries or anyone else”.

I understand that after nine years of war, peaceful solutions must be found. However, there should and must be an option between constant presence of foreign troops and the Taliban controlling Afghanistan.


Because their laws include (but are not limited to):
1. Restricting the attire and freedom of movement women and men
2. Prohibiting the education of women after the age of 8
3. Prohibiting the employment of women
4. Prohibiting women from seeing male physicians, and (see rule two) limiting the ability of women to be physicians (if they must see a male physician, the male is not allowed to touch the female, the hijab must be worn, and vocal interactions are limited).
5. Prohibiting music, British and American hairstyles (?), dancing at weddings, sorcery, washing clothes in streams, shaving, kite-flying, and keeping pigeons
6. Requiring prayer

Bearing in mind that there are Muslims who believe in Sharia law but think any punishment is in the hands of God, I am drawing a line between the Taliban means of enforcing Sharia law and whether or not that is justified within Sharia law. What matters is their interpretation and what happens to the people of Afghanistan, legally, when they break or are convicted of breaking any of the laws. Women Aid has a brief précis of the rise of the Taliban and how their laws and, critically, extreme punishment, differs from the usual.

Taliban law is enforced by religious police. Stoning, beating, and execution are all accepted punishments under the Taliban. They do not believe in democrat process. Human rights agencies have reported repeatedly on lack of fair trial and a corrupt justice system.

In 2000, the UN condemned human rights violations under the Taliban, including mass abductions and forced prostitution and marriage of women.

At present life is not that much better.

But is the choice really between warlords and religious police? Is there not a third, peaceful way that legislates basic human liberties and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment?

The right to life supersedes all others, and the ongoing war is brutal for much of the country, but basic human and women’s rights should not be compromised in an attempt to reconcile the Taliban and the current government.

Given that this is directly in conflict with the laws they sought to enforce, I don’t see how it’s possible.

Quick Afghanistan Update

According to Ms., Afghanistan’s President Karzai is reviewing that spousal rape/paedophiliac law for Shiites. Apparently he signed it without reading the whole thing.

Yeah. That must be it.

More Tragedy for Afghan Women

As I noted in an earlier post, women in Afghanistan don’t have it easy right now.

In April, there were protests against the horrific laws pertaining to Shiite women – laws designed to garner votes with the conservative religious (male, obviously) population.

In the Sunday Times Magazine this weekend, Christina Lamb has an in-depth piece on the continuing injustice Afghani women face. In interviews with women she met and seven years earlier, the discrimination and violence they face is made painfully clear.

That women can still be forced into abusive and sometimes fatal marriages because of religious or cultural forces, that those women who struggle to continue with education, work, and basic personal freedom, often face consternation, threats, abuse, and death, that the humanitarian workers and organizations can’t seem to do enough to protect, let alone assist in the liberation of, these women, is all profoundly sad, and intensely distressing. Because what can one do?

Reading the story, I felt an urge to rush to Afghanistan and start up a women’s army – training these brilliant, defiant, intelligent ladies like Marines, giving them physical strength to face their adversaries. But really, the trouble is more insidious, more entrenched; ideology cannot be warred against.

How do you educate a nation of men who have been trained, indoctrinated, to regard women as property? As inhuman? As infidels or dangerous upstarts should they balk at marrying or staying at home or generally acting as if they have a mind of their own? Not just that, but to believe that violence against them is not the same calibre as violence against another man, or even an animal; that violence they feel the need to enact is somehow their god-given right?

The Civil Rights Movement needs to begin in earnest in Afghanistan. But it is daunting to look into the past, to see the cost of such movements – fear, injury, death – before change can be felt.

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