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22 Feb 2017

Afghanistan to penalize abuse of boy sex slaves

In a landmark move against the deeply entrenched practice of sexual abuse against boys, the Afghan government is set to lay out set of stringent penalties for people who engage in "bacha bazi".

"Bacha bazi", literally meaning "boy play", had seen a resurgence in post-Taliban Afghanistan.

The new penal code is expected to be put into effect from this month.

In context

"Bacha bazi" in Afghanistan

Afghan criminal law didn't address "bacha bazi" before

Despite the persistent problem of "bacha bazi", the existing Afghan penal code only criminalizes sex outside of marriage and pederasty. As a result, there was no specific law against this deeply entrenched practice.

Bacha bazi

Just how deeply entrenched is the problem of "bacha bazi"?

"Bacha bazi" is a practice rampant in police ranks; politicians, warlords and other members of the Afghan elite often keep "bachas" as a symbol of authority, affluence, and prestige.

These "bachas" or young boys are mostly kidnapped.

They are often dressed effeminately and used as dancers and sex slaves in private parties.

Activists have even accused some lawmakers of partaking in the practice.

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Afghan police chief sacked for "bacha bazi party"

Earlier this month, the Afghan government sacked Shah Mirza Panjsheri, the police chief of the Dasht-e-Archi district in the province of Kunduz, after videos of his "bacha bazi party" was circulated on social media.

Security issues

Taliban recruiting "bacha bazi" victims

The problem of "bacha bazi", apart from its ethical and moral ramifications, was also being exploited by the Taliban to infiltrate and/or attack security networks.

The Afghan government claims that the Taliban are recruiting "bacha bazi" victims who are keen on revenge and using them to mount crippling insider attacks on security forces, especially in southern Afghanistan.

The Taliban, however, denies the allegations.

A significant step towards eliminating institutionalized sexual slavery

"There is an entire chapter on criminalizing the practice (bacha bazi) in the new penal code ... This is going to be a significant step towards stopping this ugly practice," said Nader Nadery, a senior advisor to President Ashraf Ghani.

Punishment for offenders under the new penal code

Penal code

Punishment for offenders under the new penal code

Under the new penal code which is likely to be passed by presidential decree, "bacha bazi" is criminalized, and offenders can face punishments ranging from up to seven years in prison to capital punishment for "aggravated cases".

The penal code also states that "bacha bazi" victims cannot be prosecuted - a significant provision in a nation where sexual assault victims often face punishment.

Implementation remains a major problem in Afghanistan

In a statement, the All Survivors Project, a global fact-finding effort into sexual exploitation of males in conflict-ridden areas, told the AFP, "Explicit criminalization in law of the heinous practice of bacha bazi is commendable, but implementation of laws in Afghanistan has been questionable."

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