Afghan Dancing Boys

The use of dancing boys in Afghanistan is an ancient custom. It had once almost died out, but in recent years has become resurgent. For more information and facts read out guide…

The tradition, also called bacha bazi, originated centuries ago. Families would sell their young boys to influential men for their dancing and sexual entertainment. In local culture a young beardless boy was considered to be a temptation to  men.


Many travelers throughout the nineteenth century reported on this custom going on. It was a shock to the Victorian world that this was allowed to happen. One British traveler in 1872 reported of being invited to a wealthy Afghans house where dancing boys were entertaining after dinner.

After World War I, Afghanistan and the entire region fell under British control. The practice of bacha bazi was banned which curtailed a great deal of the activity while not completely wiping it out.


The fact that bacha bazi has continued and indeed become more common came to light when Afghan reporter Najibullah Quraishi made a narrative called “The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan”. This program was aired in the United States by PBS in 2010. The entire custom of bacha bazi was exposed, and some of the dancing boys who were interviewed admitted to being sexually molested by their owners and their guests.

After this program aired, the U.S. Defense Department hired social scientist Anna Maria Cardinalli to look into the practice. In her report entitled “Pashtun Sexuality” she stated that U.S. soldiers had often seen older men walking hand in hand with pretty young boys. British soldiers made reports of young boys running up to them and trying to touch and to fondle them.

On the record the Afghan government condemns the practice of bacha bazi and is trying to put an end to it. It is reported that the government in actuality is doing very little as the owning of young dancing boys is done by the influential and rich members of the Afghan society.

Of interest, young girls are also used in dancing rituals. Oddly enough, these girls are dressed as young men for their performances.

U.S. Involvement

The United States government is strictly against the practice of bacha bazi, as evidenced by their employment of Cardinalli to investigate. This attitude has somehow not drifted down to all Americans and American companies working and doing business in Afghanistan.

In December, 2010, a Wikileaks cable stated that DynCorp, a U.S. corporation had unfortunately done its part to continue the dancing boy tradition. DynCorp actually hired pimps to buy boys for bacha bazi for high ranking Afghan police officers.

With U.S. companies doing this and getting by with this behavior, the custom of bacha bazi will go on, no matter how much the world may frown on it. It is after all an ancient custom that the Afghans seem to wish to continue.

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