Cross-dressing girls can enjoy a man’s freedoms in patriarchal Afghan society
- Afghani women cannot leave their homes without a male escort and discouraged from pursing an education, a job, or sport.
- It is a shameful stigma in Afghanistan for a man to have only daughters.
- In families lacking sons, a daughter is sometimes appointed to fill a male role.
- These Bacha Posh adopt male names, dress like boys, keep their hair short.
- The freedoms they enjoy as a boy allow them to run errands, earn money, and escort their female family members.
- Once they grow up, most return to their roles as women and must observe all traditional restrictions again.
Women’s rights are severely restricted in patriarchal Afghanistan. Female family members are expected to stay at home and take care of the children.
They have little access to education and are discouraged from getting a job. Society condemns women who play sports, and a woman can even land in hot water for leaving the house without a male relative by her side.
Women still often need permission from a male or to be escorted to take part in some of the most mundane activities. Consequently, parents sometimes appoint one of their daughters to play the male role in families with few men.
The practice is called Bacha Posh, which literally means “dressed up as a boy.”
Girls playing this role wear boys’ clothes, have close-cropped hair, and answer to a male name in the street.
They enjoy the freedoms that men in Afghan society have at the price of their true identity.
As they grow up, most go back to behaving like women again. After getting married, they must comply with the traditional restrictions women face.
For girls who have tasted freedom while posing as boys, it is particularly difficult to readjust to the behaviour expected of Afghan women.
For this reason, some girls decide against going back to following female rules, preferring to remain Bacha Posh instead.