Originally posted on March 25, 2014
I began writing about the growing rate of rape of boys in Afghanistan years ago. Every year I write another post about it because every year another article, interview, or report comes out stating the problem is getting worse and yet no one does anything about it. Of all the reports and articles I read, none focused on the United States’ response to the issue.
To my knowledge, the U.S. government has little concern for boys beyond counting them as enemy combatants or making sure they do not become radicalized. However, it appears the State Department had been conducting research on the matter:
The State Department in its 2013 human rights report on Afghanistan said the sexual abuse of boys, or bacha baazi, is on the rise in the region, with the practice becoming common in Kabul.
“The practice of ‘bacha baazi’ (dancing boys) – which involved powerful or wealthy local figures and businessmen sexually abusing young boys who were trained to dance in female clothes – was on the rise,” the State Department said in its human rights report.
According to the State Department, neither child pornography or the sexual exploitation of children is against Afghan law. One would think, given how keen the United States was to change Afghan law to protect women, that someone would have introduced the idea of making child porn and child rape illegal.
The report also indicated that the Taliban had eradicated the practice of bacha baazi, but upon the Taliban’s ousting by coalition forces the old warlords brought it back. It is worth mentioning that some of these warlords are the same men the U.S. and coalition forces rely on and sometimes fund in their fight against the Taliban. There is a good chance that U.S. dollars have been spent to aide in the rape of boys.
The State Department report might suggest a concern for the boys. However, the article shows the concern is in a much different place. The Human Terrain Team released a report in 2009 in which they stated:
The report noted a cyclical effect when young boys are sexually abused.
Many of them spend their “formative years” in Taliban madrasas (Islamic religious school), where they miss out on a mother’s influence. “Women are foreign, and categorized by religious teachers as, at best, unclean or undesirable,” the HTT report said.
“It is then probable that the male companionship that a boy has known takes a sinister turn, in the form of the expression of pedophilia from the men that surround him. Such abuse would most likely result in a sense of outrage or anger, but anger that can not possibly be directed at the only source of companionship and emotional support a boy knows, and on which he remains dependent,” it said.
“This anger may very well be then directed at the foreign object – women – resulting in the misogyny typical of Pashtin Islamism. Men and boys therefore remain the object of affection and security for these boys as they grow into men themselves, and the cycle is repeated,” the unclassified report said.
It concluded that such a cycle affects both males and females and “leads to violence against women and women’s suppression in Pashtun culture.”
“If women are no longer the source of companionship or sexual desire, they become increasingly and threateningly foreign,” adding to the cycle of “male isolation from women.”
In other words, because males are isolated from females, abused boys intentionally turn their anger onto females because they do not want to be cut off from the men who abused them (which makes no logical or psychological sense). So the reason we ought to consider the bacha baazi situation is a problem is not because of the thousands of boys being raped, but to prevent those boys from hurting women.
It is sad and ironic that this is the United States position on this issue. It is sad because one would think preventing the rape of a child of either sex would be a worthy enough cause in and of itself. One would think a person would not need further incentive, such as preventing potential violence years down the line that might not even happen, to address this problem.
It is ironic because the United State’s own organization, the CDC, found that most males who reported sexual abuse were abused by women, not men. The notion that allowing men greater access to women would solve the abuse problem goes out the window.
The problem is not the limited access to women. This would happen if women were in power or if girls were the chosen victims. The problem is the overall culture that allows adults to have unlimited power over children. There are no checks in place to stop the abuse.
It is unlikely the State Department will do anything about this issue. They have sat still for over a decade without much of a peep, and this recent report does not indicate any attempt to actually do something to prevent the abuse. It simply acknowledges there is a problem.
One cannot help but wonder if the Afghans had a similar policy of systemically raping girls whether the U.S. and the rest of the world remain so silent. Of course, one need not wonder, as the U.S. has devoted billions of dollars to prevent things like honor rapes. Too bad preventing the rape of boys does not raise the same level of compassion, outrage, and concern.