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Petitioning U.S. House of Representatives and 2 others

Help Stop Child Trafficking and Exploitation of 'Dancing Boys'

Revealing Truth , how young children are being abused. 

 Popular in Afghanistan, these “dancing boys” are actually sex slaves, lured off the streets by pimps, taught to dance and sing, to wear make-up and to dress like girls. Then they are made to perform before large groups of men. ALL of them are sexually abused.

A growing number of Afghan children are being coerced into a life of sexual abuse with the practice of bacha bazi, or "dancing boys". Young boys are groomed to be the sexual partners of wealthy and prominent men, often dressed up as women to dance at all-male gatherings. The boys are treated like property, even rented out for parties and weddings. It's an open secret that international officials don't want to talk about for fear of making more enemies in Afghanistan.

Bacha bazi, or boy play, is an ancient custom that goes back centuries and possibly thousands of years in Afghanistan. It was banned under the Taliban regime but has been revived, particularly in northern regions, since the Taliban’s demise and attendant increase in certain freedoms. The practice has been brought to light by several international news agencies and has been condemned by Islamic scholars as un-Islamic and as a form of sexual slavery by the United Nations Under-Secretary-General, Radhika Coomaraswamy.

In this deplorable custom, powerful men take poor and vulnerable boys into their “protection”. They promise to train them or give them work and prepare them for a better life. In reality, the boys are taken into a form of sexual slavery from which they have no escape. Their “masters” teach the boys to entertain their personal and business friends by dressing in women’s clothing and dancing seductively in front of all-male audiences.

Masters also compete among each other for prestige and social rank for having the best boys. At the end of the evening the boys are often shared for sexual favours or bought and sold among masters and such events often end in assault and rape. Boys have been killed as a result of disputes between the masters or for attempting to escape.

There is no way around the conclusion that this practice is slavery and abuse. The boys taken into this life are young teens and children as young as 11 and younger. They are poor and vulnerable, often orphans or street-children or from poor or abusive families, and are lured under false pretences. They are sometimes even sold into this life by family or relatives who either do not know or simply feel they have no choice because they have nothing better to offer.

Once the true nature of the relationship is revealed it is too late. Even if a boy is able to escape, he is burdened with the stigma of having been bacha bazi. One of the most heart-wrenching aspects of this despicable practice is that often when the boys grow up they in turn take boys of their own, condemning generations of Afghan boys to a vicious cycle of sexual abuse and slavery.

The practice of bacha bazi also crosses over into the issue of women’s rights. It leads to men neglecting their wives in favour of their boys. They are forever branded in society as a bacha bereesh, or a "boy without a beard," a boy who dances and dresses as a woman. It can also lead to forced marriages when boys grow too old to continue in bacha bazi and require wives for social acceptability.

There is no excuse for those who engage in such practices. Yet lack of enforcement is leading to a culture of impunity where rich and powerful men know that they will not bear any consequences for their actions. As a result, they act with complete disregard for the law. At the same time, law enforcement authorities responsible for stopping these practices are not held accountable for their failure to do their job or at times their participation in the very crimes they are supposed to be eliminating. Whether authorities neglect the practice entirely or engage in a false pretence of enforcement arresting and promptly releasing perpetrators, ignorance, negligence, indifference, or pressure and fear of powerful perpetrators are not excuses.
 
Their plight is not unlike that of women forced into sexual performance or prostitution, who also have a difficult time being accepted into society and finding work after their ordeal. Bacha bazi boys often return to the industry even after they have left, because they have no other means to support themselves. Women who have been forced into commercial sex often do the same. Perhaps so many similarities exist because bacha bazi feminizes these boys in order to degrade them. By forcing them to perform in women's clothes and by raping them, this tradition not only seeks to humiliate these boys for the pleasure of wealthy men, but also to reinforce the idea that women are inferior and for a boy to have feminine affectations is degrading for him. It's a window into the severe gender inequality that pervades Afghanistan. 

Human trafficking and modern-day slavery are often hidden behind the veil of cultural traditions, whether that's bacha bazi or servile marriage or debt bondage. But slavery has no place as a cultural institution in any society. We have won the battle to make slavery illegal in every country in the world. Now, comes the harder part, where we also must make is socially and culturally unacceptable. Otherwise, exploitative practices like bacha bazi will continue in shadow markets all over the world.

A group of Afghani men who participate in the practice said that dancing boys are less expensive than wives, and can be brought to gatherings where women are not allowed. One man said that another important factor making it easy to take on a bacha bazi, or a boy for pleasure, is “He doesn’t have a father, so there is no one to stop this.” Lets prove him wrong, and join together to end this culturally accepted practice of pedophila. The boys can't speak for themselves, so lets speak for them!

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    Mariah Honey started this petition with a single signature, and now has 151 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.