Standing up against a slavery form of trafficking
Human trafficking has many facets in the context of Afghanistan, involving men, women and children who often suffer at the hands of those who take advantage of their vulnerability. Those who experience trafficking are often not in a position of strength to be able to stand up against it, whether in public or domestic situations. This report looks at the case of a rare young Afghan woman who took a stand against her husband’s indulgence of Bachabazi.
Challenging deep-rooted unfair yet prevalent tradition, braving various societal pressures, an Afghan woman raised her voice against injustice that brought shame to the oppressor and comfort to oppressed.
It is the story of Bushra, 32, who initially opted silence over continued social injustice and unfair treatment, but raised her voice against overt indulgence of her husband in Bachabazi (involving sexual relations between older men and younger adolescent men, or boys). Now, Bushra is providing legal assistance to Afghan victims and survivors of trafficking in persons.
It was Bushra's resolve that kept her fight against injustice. During four long years of struggle, despite knowing the implications, she was determined to take her fight against injustice to conclusion, come what may.
She said she wanted to continue her education after she completed secondary level school education, but a marriage proposal by her family came in the way of realizing her dreams.
Bushra was in 10th class when her family got her engaged to an illiterate person in Mazar-i Sharif and was forced by her future husband to not pursue her further studies.
Bushra said she got a hint about this person's indulgence in Bachabazi and despite sharing her concern with her family, her parents decided to go ahead with her marriage for fear of social stigma.
Wedded to exploitation
Recounting her ordeal, right from the first day of her marriage, Bushara said her husband demanded total submission to his demands. With disgust and agony evident in her voice, she said: “That night he behaved in a wild manner with me.”
After a week, when I saw my husband in compromising position with a boy “I was shaking due to the fear and horror from what I had witnessed. My husband, instead warned me against talking about what she had seen.”
She informed her mother about her husband's ever increasing indulgence in Bachabazi, however, she advised her to live with her husband. She gave in to her mother's advise and continued living her husband.
Despite her persuations, her husband continued with this immoral act. "Even on Eid festival, I saw my husband sleeping with that boy," Bushra said.
Her husband's immorality had crossed all limits when he tried to molest a six year old girl during funeral ceremony of Bushra's two brothers who died in a car accident. "It was beyond my imagination that her husband could continue with his deeds in this hour while I was grieving for my brothers."
"I had two options, either commit suicide or raise my voice against injustice, I chose the latter."
Local tribal Jirga grants divorse
She shared the issue with all her family members and her father decided to resolve the issue through the local tribal Jirga.
The Jirga comprising of tribal elders, family members of both sides and religious leaders concluded that my rights have been wronged and granted divorce from her husband. After the divorce, her husband threatened to kill her. “Threats did not scare me anymore rather made me more determined towards my resolve to fight for myself and the voiceless of my society,” she said.
She said that the immoral practice of deviant sexual conduct has social implications apart from destroying the self esteem of those who are abused. "Bachabazi is an un-Islamic and inhuman act which should be eradicated from our society."
With the encouragement of her parents and renewed zeal, Bushra completed her law degree with the intent of helping the voiceless of the society. “I took a vow to help the victims of such exploitation and eradicate this custom from my society,” Bushra added.
“I am happy to have transformed myself from a helpless woman to a helpful citizen. It fills me with extreme content when I see people feeling proud of me.”
According to her, whenever people are subjected to violence and injustice, they should try to find out solution from the support system available to them such as judicial institutions. “It is saddening to find that many women commit suicide to escape the cruelty and injustice, which is a cowardice and un-Islamic act. Problems and solutions co-exist. All what is needed is courage to stay calm and have faith in God. Had I committed suicide, I would have wasted my life in this world and the faced the hell fire on the day of Judgement.”
Religious scholars: Bushra’s act must be appreciated
Shamsurrahman Frotan, a member of Ulema (Scholars) Council of Afghanitan said, Pederasty (Boy Play) is a bad and shameful tradition, which is haram and punishable in Islam. Citing Holy Quran, he said: "Allah destroyed entire Lot tribe for its indulgence in such a practice."
He commended Burshra's courage by saying that "what she has done is laudable and highly praiseworthy."
AIHRC: Bushra's struggle deserves to be documented in film
the Dr. Soraya Sobhrang, Woman Commissioner at Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), termed Bacha Bazi is a despicable custom and a sensitive issue to address.
She noted that the indecent practice of Bachabazi exists in most parts of the country. Unfortunately, due to the stigma attached to sexual exploitation, complainant do not come forward to report to authorities consequently the problem remains unresolved.
"Lack of security, lax law enforcement, rampant corruption, and the culture of impunity are among reason for ever increasing trends in Bachabazi," she remarked.
"People do not dare to complain against these individuals as 99.99 per cent of them have power of guns and money," she added.
“We have found in our investigations that the sexually abused boys later become pedophile themselves. The phenomena of the wronged becoming the wrongdoer is seen by them as a revenge for their crushed self-esteem and lost dignity during their childhood.”
Referring to ambiguities in country's penal code that makes it difficult to prosecute the offenders, she noted: "In Afghanistan's penal code, Bachabazi is not considered a crime which makes it difficult for the authorities to put a cap on this indecent act."
To overcome this shortcoming in law, eight months ago, AIHRC formed a committee comprising of various departments and prepared a draft an Anti-Pederasty which has been submitted to Ministry of Justice and the president's office, Sobhrang said.
She clarified that the said draft covers every aspect of pederasty including provisions of punishments. The AIHRC commissioner, however, noted that the draft has so far not been approval of parliament and the president.
Terming Bushra a courageous woman, AIHRC official noted: "Bushra's story is an outstanding act of bravery by an Afghan woman who comes out victorious in her fight against injustice. Her struggle deserves to be recorded in a book and documented in film."
Anti-Pederasty law awaiting president's approval
TiP High Commission member and head of Legislative Department of Justice Ministry, Abdul Majeed Ghanizada said, there is no specific law about the prevention of Pederasty, but lately a Pederasty Prohibition Law has been submitted to the ministry by the Human Rights Commission which is awaiting president's approval.
Ghanizada said, under this law organizing and participation in parties in which boys are enslaved, forced to dance for sexual amusement of others is an punishable offence.
Usually, people endure injustice done to them and bury it deep inside, however, Bushra refused to bear injustice, because she believed that burying the injustice inside is like sowing seeds of pain that will someday manifest in violence.
Bushra, didn’t endure exploitation, rather resisted, raised her voice and finally, emerged as a brave and victorious Afghan woman.
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