Having boy sex slaves or child brides are seen as badges of honor.
We managed to get access. But what was frightening was the levels of authority that this practice went up to– the chief of police is involved; there are policemen all around involved; there are warlords; powerful businessmen — and this is just in one area. Just how far does this go?
Afghanistan today, in the midst of war and endemic poverty, an ancient tradition — banned when the Taliban were in power — has re-emerged across the country: Many hundreds of boys, often as young as 11, are being lured off the streets on the promise of a new life, many unaware that their real fate is to be used for entertainment and sex. With remarkable access inside a sexual exploitation ring operating in Afghanistan, an Afghan journalist investigates this illegal practice, talking with the boys and their masters, and documenting how the Afghan authorities responsible for stopping these crimes are sometimes themselves complicit in the practice.
Pederasty in a homophobic country
Although homosexuality is illegal in Afghanistan and the gay community is constantly under the threat of imprisonment, there is a homoerotic tradition of Persian origin in Afghan history. The relationships between young boys and adult men (known as pederasty) are not regarded as homosexual, though they have led to the practice of bacha bazi (literally, play with boys). Bacha bazi is gravely frowned upon by many Afghans and its prohibition is one of the few remnants from the Taliban era, during which bacha bazi was viewed as abhorrent.
Today, bacha bazi seems to be revived around the country.Despite its long historical roots, human rights organizations consider it an abusive practice designed to take advantage of poor Afghan boys and teenagers and sell them to entertain warlords and others at private parties. Recruiting [the boys] for servitude is considered a symbol of power. Dressed up as females in a country where crossdressing is prohibited, and forced to dance provocatively, bacha bazi boys embody the eroticism that females are prohibited from exhibiting. As such, bacha bazi transforms the young boys into objects of lust.
Far from being a tacit acceptance of homosexuality, bacha bazi is no more than glorified pedophilia rooted in human trafficking and exploitation. A RT documentary follows the lives of those involved in the practice, and the dangers of doing so, especially for the young boys who come of age and are no longer eligible for bacha bazi. Destitute, these boys return to living in the streets and must be extra careful about their past. By the time they grow a beard, many of these boys become undesirable. When some become their own leaders, they take young male teenagers as their own lovers, thus perpetuating the cycle of abuse. This is one of the reasons why bacha bazi is so difficult to eradicate.
In Afghanistan women are forbidden to dance in public. Local men suffer – they want entertainment and sex at any cost. RT talked to “bachas”, boys dressed as women who dance for older men at male-only parties, and “playboys”, the bosses who recruit them. A private party usually ends up with guests bidding for a night with the ‘bacha’ (a ‘boy’ in Farsi).
In towns and cities across Pakistan, tens of thousands of vulnerable young boys have become the victims of paedophile predators who seem to have nothing to fear from the law. It’s an open secret that few acknowledge publicly and even fewer want to do anything about.
In a society where women are hidden from view and young girls deemed untouchable, the bus stations, truck stops and alleyways have become the hunting ground for perverted men to prey on the innocent. In one survey alone, 95% of truck drivers admitted having sex with boys was their favourite entertainment. At the main bus terminal in Peshawar, a makeshift hostel for drivers passing through is set up every evening with around twenty beds lying side by side. Some are occupied by men, some by boys, and some by both. Most boys have been procured by hostel owners like Hassan Deen: “When a kid is wandering the streets alone, we lure him in by telling him we’ll give him some food and a place to stay. Then we pass them on to the drivers.” In return for a pittance, the men can have sex with as many boys as they desire.
Pedestrians stroll by as though nothing is amiss and police say they’re too busy fighting terrorists to have time for the children. Forever damaged and with no hope, many of the boys turn to drugs to numb the pain and sorrow.
One of the boys we feature is 13-year-old Naeem. Having been gang-raped by four men when he was just 10, Naeem is now a child prostitute and abuser of younger boys himself. As he says: “Sometimes I wish I’d never been born.”
“It’s one of the most sad and shameful aspects of our society. I have to say I’m totally embarrassed by this” Imran Khan, world-famous cricketer and leading Pakistani Politician.
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