Gender games of Afghanistan


Social rules were evolved by civilisations or applied by Governments or imposed by religions. These are supposed to maintain the working system and conserve it. If a new trouble comes up people need to look into these rules and decide how this needs to be handled. If existing social rules does not handle, then rules need to change so that the system works. But, what if the rules are so strong that it cannot change even if the system is collapsing?

Cheat! , that’s what various societies do instead of relaxing the rules a little bit. If you need examples here is one – Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, as you know, is a country run by men. A woman/girl cannot do even 10% of social activities a man/boy does. So obviously it’s better be a boy than a girl. On the other side there are boys dressed as girls to do one thing – prostitution. Rules never changed in Afghanistan for long time, and will never change till some serious influence from outside world takes place on this society. Till then, cheat.

For the first problem, there are girls who cross-dress as boys to help family to fulfil social duties. Here is an article from NY-times. This tradition is called “bacha posh” means dressed up as a boy.

Afghan families have many reasons for pretending their girls are boys, including 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. Lacking a son, the parents decide to make one up, usually by cutting the hair of a daughter and dressing her in typical Afghan men’s clothing. There are no specific legal or religious proscriptions against the practice.

Afghan Boys Are Prized, So Girls Live the Part
Afghan Boys Are Prized, So Girls Live the Part - image via NY Times

For the second problem, there are boys dressed as women called “Bacha Bazi”. Here is guardian report on it:

The practice of taking young boys to perform as dancers at private parties is known as bacha bazi and is an Afghan tradition with very deep roots. Under Taliban rule, it was banned, but it has crept back and is now widespread, flourishing also in the cities, including the capital, Kabul, and a common feature of weddings, especially in the north. The bacha dancers are often abused children whose families have rejected them. Their “owners” or “masters” can be single or married men, who keep them in a form of sexual slavery, as concubines. The bachas are usually released at the age of 19, when they can get married and reclaim their status as “male”, though the stigma of having lived as a bacha is hard to overcome. The Afghan authorities and human rights groups are aware of the plight of bacha boys, but seem powerless to stop it.

My intention is not to pick Afghanistan, these are just examples. There could be similar stories or variations of these practices exist in different parts of the world.

Movie review : Kabul Express


I have my mind set against all Bollywood movies, which said to be shot abroad. Usually it turns out to be an over-aged college student (typically in his 30s or 40s) and his (variable entity) dancing on European footpath, with a dozen of half-naked European babes (strictly babes, no dudes). Location can be Swiss mountains with the same team dancing in Bollywood invented steps, holding mutkas (pots…. but why pots??). Movie usually has a plot of our heroes’ (ati-vinayi, parama-dayalu, sajjan) love story with heroin (sushil, soubhagyavati) and … hey you’ve seen them. I used to get vomiting sensation with all these karan johar, yash, ghai movies lately.

I would have missed an awesome movie, if the movie name was bit less attractive. “Kabul Express” is a rare movie. I think it is the only travelogue produced by Bollywood (if I am not wrong). I still can’t imagine a yash production finished movie without a “zara sa jhoom lon me … “in Afghani mountains, without any typical “Hindi Masala” or without any “item songs”.

Why Kabul express is different?

  • dialogues are written as natural as possible, Indian speaks Hindi/ Indian English , , American speaks English (US) , Pakistani
    Kabul Express
    Kabul Express

    speaks Urdu and Afghanis speak Afghani ( or pashtuni .. whatever it is ) with subtitle displayed. Typically in Indian movie whole world speaks Hindi /Tamil etc.

  • No songs, no dance, Hero does not fight, heroin does not weep, Rakhi savant don’t strip etc etc so may differences.
  • Excellent sense of humor (by arshad varsi.. I just love this guy). John Abraham is just OK in comparison with him (why this guy is still in industry?)
  • Movie is bold. It shows/tells what actually happened (or might have happened) in Afghanistan and Pakistan politically and socially. Directors most of the time fear to present all the things they have in mind (fearing fatwa/censor)


What could have been better?

  • Movie could have covered more shots of damage on general social life in Afghanistan.
  • The encounter with a Talib is presented in light way. Talib argues for kapildev/imran khan etc. The character of Talib in the movie does not support strength of the name. It’s like “My funny encounter with a Talib”. Technically, it’s not a Talib they meet, a Pakistani agent instead. He is a moderate Taliban (moderate Talib …! what is that??). In the movie he does not represent all inhumane ideas of Taliban regime had, but represents politically true (i feel) Pakistani conspiracy.

Flaws .., I forgive them.

Imran khan afridi (Talib in the movie) is undercover Pakistani agent in the movie, but was not able to ask “Can you drive this vehicle “in English. Please ignore this flaw, if it is true that Pakistan recruits officers who can not speak English (any Pakistani fellow bloggers … please educate me on this)