Afghan Boys Are Prized, So Girls Live the Part

by Wendy Wohlfeill

A snippet of today’s news coverage of Afghanistan would most likely include death tolls,  numbers of troops employed and stories of destruction and heartache.  A recent story from the New York Times, although still filled with certain heartache, took an in-depth look at a current practice that has been taking place in Afghan families for generations.

The New York Times reported that through dozens of interviews, mostly conducted with sources that remain anonymous, they were able trace generations of families who passed off female family members as boys.

Reasons for pretending  girls are boys, included economic need, social pressure to have sons, and in some cases, a superstition that doing so can lead to the birth of a real boy. In many cases the young females returned to womanhood when they hit puberty.

As confusing as this practice would be to anyone, I imagine being in an Islamic practicing society would blur these lines even further. Image being raised as a young boy, allowed to play on the streets with others, able to roam freely….and then one day around the age of thirteen everything changes—new rules, a covered body, a marriage?

An interview with one young girl put it best when she said she never wanted to return to womanhood.

“People use bad words for girls,” she said. “They scream at them on the streets. When I see that, I don’t want to be a girl. When I am a boy, they don’t speak to me like that.”

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