Human rights abuses in Afghanistan are too often wrapped in euphemisms and exoticism. Think: “opium brides.” The term conjures images of dark-eyed women sensually smoking from opium pipes while sitting on silk cushions, but it actually refers to little girls who are handed over to drug lords (who subsequently rape, traffic and sometimes kill them) by their indigent families as “repayment” for poppy crop debts. Most international media outlets are guilty of using terms like “opium bride” for people who, were they not South/Central Asian, would simply, bluntly, accurately be called victims of human trafficking. Because that’s what they are.
Given the prevalence of this double standard, I was surprised today when I read the New York Times article ‘For Punishment of Elder’s Misdeeds, Afghan Girl Pays the Price.’ In describing one of the most violent and heinous violations of women’s human rights in Afghanistan today, the NYT calls the practice of baad what it actually is: the enslavement of young girls and women for purposes of sexual exploitation and manual labor. It even used the s-word!
Read the rest of my guest post at Wronging Rights.
It interests me that human trafficking (i.e. slave trading) is getting so much press these days. I was in the Balkans in the early 1990s and was stunned to find people selling humans, especially kids. When I got back to the US people literally didn’t believe me. They thought I was making it up. Telling people i was offered a 7-year-old girl for DM40. made them somehow believe I was a bad person for even being in such a situation; irregardless of whether I’d purchased the girl or not, which I didn’t. But since that was the first time I was offered a human being for what was for me at the time pocket change, it was traumatic and haunts me even now. I think maybe I should have bought her. I don’t know, and I’ll never know.
However, it did have a useful function: years later, when i went to teach school and had to have a background check to see if I was a pedophile, I knew I wasn’t. Why? Well, I’d had the opportunity presented to me to indulge in such a thing without any conceivable chance of repercussion, and i didn’t do it, not because it was morally wrong (my morals had been ground into dust at that point; I was not there on humanitarian mission), because I knew it simply didn’t turn me on. Not an ideal way to find you’re not a child molester, but on the other hand, kind of nice to know.
I also speculate, and this is purely my personal observation and has no scientific validity, that cultures that teach repressive sexuality tend towards sexual abuse. I was around guys who genuinely believed to their core that the only legitimate or ‘manly’ form of sexuality was unprotected vaginal intercourse, and anything, ANYTHING else was a form of homosexuality or equally (to them) perverted. No lie. I had trouble believing it, but it was true. Man, I turned down buying and fucking an underage girl and got called a ‘fag’. How crazy is that?
Anyway, it’s good to see some of this stuff getting some press these days. Be safe.