The Afghan girls who live as boys

Source: BBC
Author: Tahir Qadiry

For economic and social reasons, many Afghan parents want to have a son. This preference has led to some of them practising the long-standing tradition of Bacha Posh – disguising girls as boys.

When Azita Rafhat, a former member of the Afghan parliament, gets her daughters ready for school, she dresses one of the girls differently.

Three of her daughters are clothed in white garments and their heads covered with white scarves, but a fourth girl, Mehrnoush, is dressed in a suit and tie. When they get outside, Mehrnoush is no longer a girl but a boy named Mehran.

Azita Rafhat didn’t have a son, and to fill the gap and avoid people’s taunts for not having a son, she opted for this radical decision. It was very simple, thanks to a haircut and some boyish clothes.

There is even a name for this tradition in Afghanistan – Bacha Posh, or disguising girls as boys.

“When you have a good position in Afghanistan and are well off, people look at you differently. They say your life becomes complete only if you have a son,” she says.

There has always been a preference for having sons in Afghanistan, for various economic and social reasons.

Ms Rahfhat’s husband, Ezatullah Rafhat, thinks having a son is a symbol of prestige and honour.

“Whoever came [to our house] would say: ‘Oh, we’re sorry for you not having a son.’ So we thought it would be a good idea to disguise our daughter, as she wanted this too.”

Azita Rafhat is not the only mother who has decided to do this.

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1 reply

  1. In any culture, but particularly one wherein gender roles are so radically divergent, so rigid, and so vehemently enforced, I can only imagine the psychological repurcussions of such a tradition, not to mention the societal ones, which may only emerge years down the road.

    It is a great tragedy that a people who claim to be followers of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH–a man who had four daughters and raised them all with great pride and much affection, despite the prevalent tradition of his time wherein daughters were buried alive for the supposed disgrace and dishonor their births brought to their fathers–it is a great tragedy that such a Prophet’s followers remain victims of a misplaced sense of honor and prestige and retain a tremendous inferiority complex, regarding the birth of a daughter.

    It is a great misfortune that much of the Muslim world, despite all that their Prophet strove for and stood for, suffer from this damning disease of a complex.

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