Bacha bereesh and bacha bazi
“Boys are taken from their families at a young age and sold or given to wealthy and powerful business men, politicians, and military commanders. The boys are dressed in women’s clothing and makeup and forced to dance to entertain their master and his guests. They are also forced to perform sex acts on their master or his guests. The few boys who are able to escape their slavery have a difficult time ever making a living doing anything else. They are forever branded in society as a bacha bereesh, or a “boy without a beard,” a boy who dances and dresses as a woman.
Their plight is not unlike that of women forced into sexual performance or prostitution, who also have a difficult time being accepted into society and finding work after their ordeal. Bacha bazi boys often return to the industry even after they have left, because they have no other means to support themselves. Women who have been forced into commercial sex often do the same. Perhaps so many similarities exist because bacha bazi feminizes these boys in order to degrade them. By forcing them to perform in women’s clothes and by raping them, this tradition not only seeks to humiliate these boys for the pleasure of wealthy men, but also to reinforce the idea that women are inferior and for a boy to have feminine affectations is degrading for him. It’s a window into the severe gender inequality that pervades Afghanistan.
Rules for men having sex with boys
Man-boy sex is institutionalized to the extent that the Islamic rulebook specifies who should and should not be the object of a man’s amorous attentions. Apart from the requirement that the boy should be beardless (bacha bereesh), there are also some restrictions regarding family members.