International Law

Afghanistan’s Dancing Boys Are Human Rights Victims

Without context, the term "dancing boys" might appear to be innocent in nature, such as a reference to a youth dance troupe. Even the Afghani term "bacha bazi," which roughly translates as "boy play," doesn't fully convey the human rights abuses inflicted upon such children.

Dancing boys are in fact very young males who have been sold or coerced into sexual slavery by Afghani men who wield wealth and/or military power to procure them. The practice has also become more widespread among men who claim they cannot afford to marry a woman. In Najibullah Quraishi's 2010 film, the "Dancing Boys of Aghanistan," this Afghani pedophile practice was exposed to the world.

This is not alternative orientation issue. It is a human rights issue and these boys deserve the protection of the rule of law. In many countries, these acts would be prosecuted as child rape.

Yet in Afghanistan the practice is actively promoted as acceptable. In fact, U.S. military personnel have been trained to look the other way rather than interfere with this "cultural practice."

It's also noteworthy that these dancing boys are encouraged by their predators to act in ways that would be severely punished under Sharia law if an Afghani female of any age acted the same way.

Among the Faustian bargains that have been made fighting the "War on Terror," the tacit endorsement of the Afghani dancing boy "tradition" is one of the worst because it promotes human rights violations against innocent children and defines child sex trafficking as a social norm in the process. One wonders how many children would have been spared this fate if the U.S. and its allies insisted that the "cultural practice" be prosecuted as a crime instead of abetting it through acts of omission in the name of tolerance.  On the other hand, the persistence of such moral depravity suggests that the Afghani government and Afghani society are still a long way away from having developed a strong sense of respect for human rights and the rule of law. 

Left to their own devices, as soon they will be, one can only fear for the dancing boys and the women of Afghanistan, and for what new oppressions will be foisted on those people of Afghanistan who are among the powerless and lowly in society.  It also begs the question of what kind of ally Afghanistan will be in the war on terror in future, and what kind of participant it will be in world affairs. 

Recommended Reading

Afghanistan's 'Dancing Boys' Exploitation on the Rise, (Apr. 5, 2012)

Afghanistan's 'dancing boys': Behind the story, Washington Post (Apr. 5, 2012)

The exploitation of Afghanistan's 'dancing boys', Washington Post (Apr. 4, 2012)

Afghanistan sees rise in 'dancing boys' exploitation, Washington Post (Apr. 4 2012)

Afghan Pedophilia: A way of life, say U.S. soldiers and journalists, (Jan. 19, 2012)

Paedophilia 'culturally accepted in south Afghanistan', UK Telegraph (Jan. 13, 2012)