In this article, I would like to write about an important issue that affects children in Afghanistan. It is about the practice of „Bacha Bazi.“ Translated from Persian, it means „boy’s play.“ The term refers to a situation in which an older man engages in sexual acts with underage youth or young boys. These acts are still practiced in Central Asia today and are emblematic of a dark side of Afghan society: violence against children. Unfortunately, very little attention is paid to the issue and the Afghan government has been sweeping it under the rug for decades. Children have their childhood stolen from them and are forced to live as sex slaves and prostitutes.
„Bacha Bazi,“ translation from Persian: Bacha „child; boy“ and Bazi „game“, meaning „boy’s game“
The boys abused for „Bacha Bazi“ are usually between eight and ten years old. In most cases, they are kidnapped or come from poor families who need money and sell the boys. The man who kidnaps them is henceforth their owner and the child must do what he says. The „Bacha Bazi“ is usually practiced in a certain way: Men force the boys to dress up as women and dance at events. They have to have long hair or wear a wig. They put on makeup, wear anklets with bells. Some also have to wear fake breasts. The event ends with sexual acts.
If a „bacha“ does not follow the rules, he must die
Once an older man chooses a „bacha“, the boy must be obedient to him. For example, he must wear things and always follow the rules of his owner. The owner also decides who the boy can talk to or be friends with, when he can smile and where he can dance. If the bacha does not follow the rules and the owner becomes suspicious, it is very likely that the boy will have to die. If a man has one or more bacha, it is considered a sign of his power and wealth. This means that some owners have more than ten bachas in their service at any one time. How pretty the boys are is also an important point.
The „Bacha Bazi“ is sex slavery, where boys as young as ten are led around parties for the sexual gratification of a group of middle-aged men. Once this is over and the dancing ends, the true horror of the boys‘ fate is revealed because they have to go with a guest. They earn nothing at the parties. They live as if they were in a relationship with their masters. The masters take care of them in the house, buy the boy food and other things.
No escape for the boys
What is the situation of a boy when he escapes? If the attempt is successful, he must always be afraid that the owner might find him one day. He must be in a constant escape mode and change his address regularly. If an escape attempt fails, he is beaten, even murdered. These children develop mental illnesses. Most of them become drug addicts to cope with the situation and the compulsion to have sex. Some of them become so-called „Bacha Baz“ themselves. They look for boys on the street to kidnap them. Then they become owners themselves or they look for boys for their masters.
The judiciary does not punish the men. Under Afghan law, the „Bacha Bazi“ is illegal and it punishes abuse. But the law is not applied because the judiciary and the police are so corrupt that they do not really prosecute anyone for the acts. The men who practice this act are mostly warlords and rich people. They are men who are in high-ranking government positions, the jihadis. Even the „bacha“ are taken to army bases for the parties and sexual acts.
The police does nothing to punish the men as they often join these parties themselves
There are some books, articles and documentaries on the subject, but without the help of the government and the people, nothing can be achieved in a patriarchal society like Afghanistan. The legal protection and punishment for the people who commit or support these violent acts must be really enacted and executed, not just written on paper. Most often, masters pay bribes to stop reporting to the police. This dark side of society should be washed away.
This article was first published in German.