Joel Brinkley, a journalism professor at Stanford University and a former foreign correspondent for The New York Times, has written a disturbing piece for the San Francisco Chronicle's website about the practice of pedophilia in Afghanistan.
Western soldiers report that they frequently see older men holding hands with young boys in a way that suggests they aren't fathers and sons. The Defense Department hired a social scientist to investigate what was becoming a growing source of concern among the military forces stationed there. The investigator, AnnaMarie Cardinalli, issued a report called "Pashtun Sexuality."
"For centuries, Afghan men have taken boys, roughly 9 to 15 years old, as lovers. Some research suggests that half the Pashtun tribal members in Kandahar and other southern towns are 'bacha baz,' the term for an older man with a boy lover. Literally it means 'boy player.' . . . In Kandahar, population about 500,000, and other towns, dance parties are a peculiar, often weekly, pastime. Young boys dress up as girls, wearing makeup and bells on their feet, and dance for a dozen or more leering middle-aged men who throw money at them and then take them home. A recent State Department report called 'dancing boys' a 'widespread, culturally sanctioned form of male rape.'"
There is, apparently, an Afghan expression that goes: "Women are for children, boys are for pleasure."
Brinkley goes on:
"Sociologists and anthropologists say the problem results from [a] perverse interpretation of Islamic law. Women are simply unapproachable. Afghan men cannot talk to an unrelated women until after proposing marriage. Before then, they can't even look at a woman, except perhaps her feet."
In addition, some fundamentalist imams teach that women are "unclean."
Homosexuality is forbidden under Islamic law. But, according to Brinkley, the men explain "bacha baz" away by claiming that it's not homosexuality "because they aren't in love with their boys."
In fact, PBS's Frontline aired a documentary about the practice, called The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan. On its website, PBS describes the documentary this way:
"As the United States deepens its commitment to Afghanistan, Frontline takes viewers inside the war-torn nation to reveal a disturbing practice that is once again flourishing in the country: the organized sexual abuse of adolescent boys."