“Bacha bazi” literally translates to “child’s play.” Upon first glance, the dancing ritual seems just like what’s it is called, at least on the surface. But in Afghanistan’s deeply religious society, this child’s play is anything but that. The young men who are made up like women and forced to dance for older men are really sex slaves with no way out.
Most of the Dancing Boys of Afghanistan are between the ages of 13 and 15. They are shunned by society and by their own families, if their families even know where they are. These young men are certainly never acceptable for marriage. The masters, the ones who house and feed them, are admired for their wealth in a desperately impoverished country. No one really talks about the fact that these masters also have sex with these beardless boys.
The “bacha bereesh” often turn to drugs and don’t live very long. If they do, they become predators after they are too old to perform. They lure other young boys into the same life that destroyed their own.
For years, returning American soldiers told stories about hearing the boys being raped at night. They were told to do nothing because the practice is so deeply embedded in the country’s culture. After all, it was so acceptable that until now even policemen sat and watched the performances. It was only recently that the government prohibited the ritual of “bacha bazi” after decades of its existence. Whether or not they took in the so called after-show is unknown albeit probable. Only the Taliban were able to stop the phenomenon by prohibiting the practice and executing violators, but it’s resurfaced since the group fell. (FIRST TO KNOW | 1/7/2016)