Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bacha bazi, the horror, in Afghanistan

In a piece called Afghanistan's dirty little secret for the San Francisco Chronicle on the weekend, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Joel Brinkley explores the practice of bacha baz, or bazi: what seems like a pretty systemic situation where older, more powerful men sexually abuse young boys ages 9-15. 

"Sociologists and anthropologists say the problem results from a perverse interpretation of Islamic law," writes Brinkley. "Women are simply unapproachable. Afghan men cannot talk to an unrelated woman until after proposing marriage. Before then, they can't even look at a woman, except perhaps her feet. Otherwise, she is covered, head to ankle."

This piece, which ran on Sunday, is based around a report by the social scientist AnnaMaria Cardinalli, who was hired by the US Defense Department to investigate the phenomenon. Earlier this year the PBS programme Frontline sent an Afghan journalist, Najibullah Quraishi, to report on the issue. He came back with The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan, which aired on April 20.

"It's a form of slavery, taking a child, keeping him," said Radhika Coomaraswamy, a UN special representative for children and armed conflict, in the piece. "It's a form of sexual slavery."

Commenters on the sites and Facebook are all "this is who we are protecting in Afghanistan?" and I get that. One even called for the Taliban back, arguing they had successfully outlawed the practice.

It's important to remember sexual abuse of both sexes by both sexes occurs in every country – even Canada and the UAE. And I am sure if you live in Afghanistan, it's all a lot more complicated than these two reports can convey. It's pretty hard, however, not to get the impression from these surface reports that there is something entirely different going here.


Anonymous said...

This shouldn't surprise anyone. In Islamic countries, especially one's that segregate between the sexes from an early age, people do not develop proper social habits. Therefore, when faced with nothing but males or females throughout one's early life, especially during the impressionable adolescent years when humans discover their sexuality, there is no one to turn to but people from the same sex. Compound this with the negative connotations placed upon women, and it is easy to see why there is a high prevalence of homosexuality in Islamic countries, particularly one's who follow a strict and rigid form of Islam.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous (above me) explains Homosexuality in the Muslim world. Can that same logic be applied to explain homosexuality in the Western world?

It cant.

Therefore, the explanation above me is not valid.

M said...

to Anonymous number 2 (above).

What an absolutely illogical argument. The same "logic" cannot be applied to the Western world because there are different factors at play.

In the western world, men and women are not strictly segregated.

In the western world, it is not forbidden to know females other than your mother or sister.

In the western world, it is not considered 'impure' to think and discuss sex.

In the western world, religion does not heavily influence people's lives and beliefs.

Please don't make me go on.

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