Update: For the first time ever, the UN and Afghan government have worked together to develop a National Action Plan to investigate bacha bazi, prevent young boys from being trafficked into the industry, and hold the men who buy and sell them accountable. The National Action Plan comes as a result of a year of hard work from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the Afghan government and civil society, and after nearly 4,000 Change.org members wrote to the UN asking them to make fighting child sex trafficking in Afghanistan a priority.
The bacha bazi tradition, which literally means "boy play" has deep roots in Afghan culture. For centuries, wealthy men have been buying orphans or boys from poor families, dressing them in women's clothing, and paying them to sing and dance for entertainment. After the bacha party, the boy is auctioned off to the highest bidder or shared by several men for sex. When the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, they banned the practice, and it remains illegal today. But since the Taliban was ousted, the tradition has been revived and is growing.
Bacha bazi boys are usually teens, but many are as young as 11. Most of them come from very poor families or are orphans from the war. Boys are lured off the street or bought from family members by businessmen. Then, they are usually kept in a house with other boys, trained sing, dance, and play musical instruments. They are also introduced to the commercial sex industry, ususally by being raped by the men who train them or sold for sex out of the backseat of cars.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of bacha bazi is how quickly the practice is being revived in Afghanistan and how little police and security forces are doing to stop it. In fact, uniformed Afghan police officers have even been witnessed procuring young boys in broad daylight. And according to a recent report from UNICEF, many of the men who participate in bacha bazi work for the Afghan government, including those who publicly denounce the practice. But even the Afghan authorities who aren't actively participating in bacha bazi are refusing to broach the taboo subject or arrest and prosecute those who commit bacha bazi.
Tell the UN it's time to crack down on bacha bazi in Afghanistan. Security and police forces should never being involved in child trafficking.
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