AFP has gathered testimonies from multiple Afghan families whose children were abducted for the practice of "bacha bazi" -- sexual exploitation of boys. Powerful warlords, commanders, politicians and other members of the elite often keep "bachas" as a symbol of authority and affluence.The stories come after an AFP report in June 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. Bachas, sometimes dressed as women, are often sexually exploited.
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.
Bacha bazi is a form of pederasty which has been prevalent in Central Asia since antiquity.
It waned in the big cities after World War I, for reasons that dance historian Anthony Shay describes as "Victorian era prudery and [the] severe disapproval of colonial powers such as the Russians, British, and French, and the post-colonial elites who had absorbed those Western colonial values." A number of Western travellers through Central Asia have reported on the phenomenon of the bacchá.
"I didn't know anyone when I arrived in Athens," he begins. I don't have a home so I sleep every night in a park nearby."I had only two options when I arrived - one was to become a thief or a drug dealer," Mahmoud explains.
"But I am not that kind of person."The other option was to stay in the park and have sex with older men, or anyone ...His opinion was that the dances "were by no means indecent, though they were often very lascivious." At this date there were already signs of official disapproval of the practice.Wrote Schuyler: These "batchas", or dancing-boys, are a recognised institution throughout the whole of the settled portions of Central Asia, though they are most in vogue in Bokhara and the neighbouring Samarkand.bāzī, "game") is a slang term in Afghanistan for a wide variety of activities involving sexual relations between older men and younger adolescent men, or boys, that sometimes includes child sexual abuse.The practitioner is commonly called bacha Baz (meaning "pedophile" in Dari) or simply BACH.But the country’s youth have found a non-judgmental friend in a government helpline that offers advice on taboo subjects — from ways to perk up virility to erectile dysfunction and even homosexuality. “If you seek advice from friends or family members about treating impotence, you will be labelled immoral, shameless or unmanly,” the caller, a young man in his 20s, told AFP after receiving expert advice. Set up in 2012 with the help of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the youth helpline is run by 10 call centre consultants in Kabul — men and women trained by a professional sexologist — who field hundreds of calls a day from distressed Afghans.