They Don’t just Dance

Afghan tradition of hiring boys for sex

In Afghanistan’s male-dominated society women face many restrictions. Among the many prohibitions, they are not allowed to go to parties or dance. That female social vacuum has led to an old tradition of “bachas” – dancing boys who dance in women’s clothes at men-only parties but the boy’s job description involves more than dancing. After the party, the men choose their favourite boy for sex. Premarital sex is forbidden for women so many men seek the company of rent boys. Here, sex with a boy considered less of a sin than having sex with an unmarried woman, and male child prostitution is seen as a lesser evil than women selling their bodies.

RelatedA cultural tradition or child sex abuse, Afghanistan's bacha bazi dancing boys

Often, boys who need to feed their families become bachas from as young as 12. Some continue for years, while for others, it’s a temporary occupation. The practice is illegal in modern Afghanistan, officially, but the men who keep and recruit bachas, known as “playboys”, are well connected and rich, essentially placing them beyond the law. Besides, it’s a long-standing tradition that is unlikely to go away any time soon. In fact, it appears to be undergoing a revival.

In poverty-stricken Afghanistan, where women are forbidden to work, making men the only breadwinners, boys often have to provide for their families from a very young age. Many are tempted by the money that being a bacha can give them while their families are often too busy trying to survive, to object, or even notice where the money comes from.

RT Doc goes to Afghanistan to ask how the bachas became rent boys and goes to a private party where the boys dance and meet their customers. Boys, handlers and punters all speak openly about this outlawed, yet widely practiced, sexual tradition.