I love to dance and I’m very lucky that my passion is what I make my living through. But sometimes, I come across a story about dance that really sickens me. So much so, that I wasn’t sure I should blog about it. But, I thought it was important to tell the story because it shows those of us who live in a free society, who are free to do what we please when we please, how lucky we are.
The other night on Channel 4 I watched a programme called The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan. I knew this was not going to be comfortable viewing – but I hadn’t realised just how downright harrowing it would be.
Bacha Bazi – or ‘Boy Play’ is a tradition that was outlawed by the Taliban and has since re-emerged in the Afghan society. The tradition revolves around rich, powerful men who own and groom young boys to dance for them and their friends. In a society where access to women is limited, it is the young boys who play this role instead, dressing in women’s outfits and dancing for men – and then being used for other sexual activities. Basically the boys are sexual slaves kept as status symbols.
The boys are taken from their families when they are about ten or eleven, with families being paid to let the boys go. The families are often so poor that they feel they have no choice and think that the boys will get better lives with these rich men looking after them. The boys learn dance and music for a year before they are then thrown into a room full of men for whom they dance.
The scenes shown on the programme were really disturbing. Here were men of all ages leering at these young boys, dressed in women’s clothes and bells, with the men fighting at the end of the night to see who takes the boys home with them. Sometimes these fights turn really ugly and dancing boys are often murdered either by their owners or the owner’s enemies.
Once the boys reach 18, they are considered men and too old for this role. They are often abandoned by their owners with no scope for a future, lacking any education or prospects of work. Often, in a typical abuser turned abused cycle, these men will then begin to own boys themselves, making money from hiring them out to dance at parties and weddings.
Many Afghan wives know that their men own these boys, but in a society where women do not have a voice, they can’t say anything.
The whole practice is vile, and the sexual abuse of the boys is openly accepted. The police don’t do anything and if a person is arrested for the murder of a boy, they are often release after just a few months. Pimps who prey on these boys, do so openly and with no fear of persecution, and the owners of the boys are usually well-to-do men in places of authority or wealth who know they can’t be touched by the law. And so, the cycle of abuse, murder and misery continues unhindered.
Dancing is a joyous thing. It makes one happy and fell good. It can be positively life-changing. Unfortunately in some societies it is used as a tawdry cover-up to something much more sinister and evil. I watched this programme and felt absolute despair for the boys and nothing but contempt for the men. At the moment I feel helpless, there is nothing I can do to help the boys – but I hope that by blogging about it, talking about it and sharing this story people will become more aware of it. The media has been covering the story for awhile now – Google the topic and many articles come up. One hopes that if enough awareness of this issue is raised, and if enough people speak out about it, one day this depraved practice will be stamped out.