Kabul to set penalties for subculture of boy sex slaves

Punishments will now be listed in Afghanistan’s revised penal code – from up to 7 years in jail for sexual assault to capital punishment for 'aggravated cases' such as violating more than one boy.

File photo of an Afghan boy, who was held as a child sex slave, sitting at a restaurant in a unidentified location in Afghanistan. The country is set to lay out stringent penalties for "bacha bazi" – or sexual slavery and abuse of boys – for the first time in a landmark move against the deeply entrenched practice. Aref Karimi/AFP
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KABUL // Afghanistan is to lay out stringent penalties for “bacha bazi” – sexual slavery and abuse of boys – for the first time, officials say, in move against the entrenched practice.

Last year it emerged that the Taliban were exploiting bacha bazi in police ranks to mount lethal insider attacks, exposing a hidden epidemic of kidnapping of young boys for institutionalised sexual slavery.

The revelations intensified longstanding demands by campaigners for Kabul to enact an incisive legal provision to curb bacha bazi – literally “boy play” – which has had a resurgence in post-Taliban Afghanistan.

Punishments will now be listed in Afghanistan’s revised penal code – from up to 7 years in jail for sexual assault to capital punishment for “aggravated cases” such as violating more than one boy.

“There is an entire chapter on criminalising the practice in the new penal code,” said Nader Nadery, a senior adviser to president Ashraf Ghani.

“The code is expected to be adopted any time this month. This is going to be a significant step towards stopping this ugly practice.”

A draft of the chapter titled Driving Children Towards Moral Corruption states that bacha bazi victims cannot be prosecuted, a significant caveat in a nation where sex assault victims often face punishment.

Afghanistan’s criminal law previously only prohibited pederasty and sex outside of marriage, which human rights campaigners said did not sufficiently address the problem of bacha bazi.

“This chapter clearly defines bacha bazi as a crime, leaving no room for ambiguity,” Mr Ghani’s legal adviser Nasrullah Stanekzai said.

Aside from police commanders, warlords, politicians and other members of the Afghan elite often keep “bachas” as a symbol of authority and affluence.

The young boys, sometimes dressed effeminately with makeup and bells on their feet, are used as dancers at private parties and often sexually exploited.

* Agence France-Presse