Afghanistan set to criminalize child sex slavery

Afghanistan set to criminalize child sex slavery
Updated 22 February 2017

Afghanistan set to criminalize child sex slavery

Afghanistan set to criminalize child sex slavery

KABUL: Afghanistan is set to criminalize the practice of “bacha bazi,” sexual exploitation of boys, with a slew of stringent punishments laid out for the first time in a revised penal code.
The move comes after an AFP report last year found the Taliban are exploiting the centuries-old practice, one of the most egregious violations of human rights in the country, to mount deadly insider attacks in the volatile south.
Here are some key answers about bacha bazi.
Powerful warlords, commanders, politicians and other members of the elite often keep “bachas” as a symbol of authority and affluence.
Bachas, sometimes dressed as women, are often sexually exploited. They can also be used as dancers at private parties.
Bacha bazi is not widely seen as homosexual behavior — popularly demonized as a deviant sexual act, prohibited in Islam — and is largely accepted as a cultural practice.
“Women are for child-rearing, boys are for pleasure” is a common saying across many parts of Afghanistan.
The ancient custom, banned under the Taliban’s 1996-2001 rule, has seen a resurgence in recent years. It is said to be widespread across southern and eastern Afghanistan’s rural Pashtun heartland, and with ethnic Tajiks across the northern countryside.
Tight gender segregation in Afghan society and lack of contact with women have contributed to the spread of bacha bazi, rights groups say.
Several other factors such as an absence of the rule of law, corruption, limited access to justice, illiteracy, poverty, insecurity, and the existence of armed groups have also helped the practice spread, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said in a report in 2014.
AIHRC points out that Afghanistan’s criminal law prohibits rape and pederasty, but so far there are no clear provisions on bacha bazi.
“There is a gap and ambiguity in the laws of Afghanistan regarding bacha bazi and the existing laws do not address the problem sufficiently,” the report said.
It is this gap, which the government hopes the revised penal code will address.
But the government has a poor track record of implementing such measures, as many of the perpetrators have connections with the security organs and by using power and giving bribes they get exempted from punishment.
Bachas are typically aged between 10 and 18. Many of them are kidnapped and sometimes desperate poverty drives their families to sell them to abusers.

“The victims of bacha bazi suffer from serious psychological trauma as they often get raped,” AIHRC’s report said.
“Such victims suffer from stress and a sort of distrust, hopelessness and pessimistic feeling. Bacha bazi results in fear among the children and a feeling of revenge and hostility develop in their mind.”
In turn, many adolescent victims are said to grow up to have boy lovers of their own, repeating the cycle of abuse.
“In the absence of any services to recover or rehabilitate boys who are caught in this horrendous abuse, it’s hard to know what happens to these children,” said Charu Lata Hogg, a London-based fellow at Chatham House, a think tank.