For 10-years, this girl dressed as boy. The reason's heartbreaking
For more than a decade, Sitara Wafadar has been dressing as a boy, to make up for the son her parents never had. Sitara is one of the victims of 'Bacha Poshi', a conservative custom of Afghanistan, wherein girls dress as boys to carry on duties of a son, without fear of harassment. Nangarhar resident Sitara works with her father at a brick factory.
What is Bacha Poshi- the gender twisting practice
Having its roots in deeply patriarchal society, Bacha Poshi is followed by families which don't have male heirs. Dressed as boys, the girls carry out duties of a son. They stop doing it once they reach puberty, but 18-year-old Sitara has continued it to protect herself at the brick kiln. Notably, after years of disguising as boys, girls are left confused about their gender identity.
After years, journey to normalcy gets difficult for girls
Kabul University sociology professor Baryalai Fetrat said the practice harmed girls. "Girls find it difficult to go back to their normal self or act as a submissive wife to their husbands, which can lead to depression and also domestic violence," Fetrat said.
Burdened with debts, Sitara's family doesn't have a choice
Sitara's father, Noor, borrowed 25,000 Afghanis from a brick factory owner and other relatives, for the treatment of his diabetic wife. Left with no son, his only hope was Sitara, who earns 160 Afghanis after working from 7 AM to 5 PM. "I don't have any other choice," he said. Four of Sitara's elder sisters are now married; earlier they also used to work at the factory.
Sitara's mother hopes her daughter stays at home
Sitara's mother Fatima said she wanted her daughter to stay at home, dress like a female, but she can't. Sitara takes her mother to the doctor, brings groceries, and run chores. Dressing like a boy ensures she is safe. In the alternative case, she might have been kidnapped or worse incidents could have happened to her.
To protect her 13-year-old younger sister, Sitara continues ordeal
Sitara has a 13-year-old younger sister. If she stops dressing as a boy to help the family, her sister will be forced to go on the same road. "I don't want my younger sister dressing as a boy and working at the factory," she said. Sitara wished she had a brother, so she could go to school and let her hair grow.