A year after Afghanistan strengthened its human trafficking laws to prohibit the use of boys for sexual entertainment, experts say the crime is still on the rise.
“Bacha bazi” — in which young boys are abducted by commanders who force them to dance and sexually abuse them — was only outlawed in January 2017 when the country updated its anti-trafficking law.
It is generally a very taboo topic in Afghanistan, but officials finally acknowledged the problem once militants started using these boys as weapons, forcing them to become suicide bombers.
Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:
“Young boys are kidnapped by militant groups,” said Meena Poudel from the International Organization for Migration (IOM). “Once they use them sexually, they use them for suicide bombers.”
She added that the government has recognised that its security forces have also practiced bacha bazi.
While the anti-trafficking law has been strengthened, resources to enforce it have not been forthcoming, said Wali Mohammad Kandiwal, whose study of the anti-trafficking law was published by the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, a Kabul-based think tank.
There is no court dedicated to hearing human trafficking cases, and little public education about trafficking and where people should go to report it, said Kandiwal.
There is no official estimate of the number of trafficking cases in Afghanistan, but IOM is working with the government to create its first database. Aside from “bacha bazi,” there are many cases of forced labor, forced marriage, and domestic slavery in the country.
Poudel added that an active “medical mafia” which operates in the region is now harvesting organs from trafficking victims to sell. She says that traffickers are targeting Afghans who have been deported or who have decided to return from Iran and Pakistan, as well as those displaced by conflict inside the country.