Husband, father, sex worker: As adults, Afghanistan’s ‘dancing boys’ lead double lives

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05/03/2020

In conservative Afghanistan, former dancing boy Farhad leads a double life; married father-of-six by day, cross-dressing dancer and sex worker by night. The practice of “bacha bazi” – translated as “boy play” – involves boys dressing up and dancing at private parties, but it was outlawed in 2017 amid concerns it fostered sexual abuse and servitude of young boys by powerful, older men. Islamic clerics led calls for the centuries-old tradition to be stopped, saying those involved should be stoned for sodomy which is forbidden under Islamic law. “(But bacha bazi) continues to happen and is a grave human rights violation,” said Abdul Rasheed, executive director of the non-profit Youth Health and Development Organization (YHDO). “Pressing charges against the perpetrators is almost impossible as many are in a position of power,” he added. The YHDO has highlighted how sexual abuse and trafficking of boys was a practice that exploded during Afghanistan’s civil war in the 1990s, with boys from rural areas flocking to cities to find work to support families, leaving them vulnerable to abuse.

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