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A Critical Analysis of United Nations Convention on Rights of Child, 1989 with Special Reference to Bacha Posh and Bacha Bazi in Afghanistan

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is an international human rights treaty that sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 20th November 1989 and came into force on 2nd September 1990. The UNCRC is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history, with 196 countries having ratified it. The Convention defines a "Child" as any human being under the age of eighteen, unless the age of majority is attained earlier under national legislation.

The Convention seeks to protect and promote the rights of all children, regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or abilities. It sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children, and requires that signatory countries take appropriate measures to ensure that these rights are respected and implemented.

The Convention also requires that signatory countries take all appropriate measures to ensure that children are protected from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. The Convention also requires that signatory countries take all appropriate measures to ensure that children are protected from all forms of discrimination.

Legal Provisions Of United Nations Convention On Rights Of Child, 1989

The United Nations Convention consists of 54 Articles, each of which details a different kind of right. These articles have been grouped together under the following themes and is also enshrined in Preamble:
  1. Survival Rights:
    These rights include the child's right to life and the needs that are most basic to existence, such as nutrition, shelter, an adequate living standard, and access to medical services.
  2. Development Rights:
    These rights include the right to education, play, leisure, cultural activities, access to information, and freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
  3. Protection Rights:
    These rights ensure children are safeguarded against all forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation.
  4. Participation Rights:
    These rights encompass children's freedom to express opinions and to increase opportunity to participate in the activities of society, in preparation for adulthood.

The United Nations Convention includes four articles that are given special emphasis.

These are also known as "General Principles". These rights are as follows:
  1. Article 2: Non-Discrimination: Its states that all the rights guaranteed by the UNCRC must be available to all children without discrimination of any kind.
  2. Article 3: Best Interests of the Child: It states that the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children.
  3. Article 6: Right to Life, Survival and Development: It states that every child has the right to life, survival and development.
  4. Article 12: The Views of the Child: It states that the child's view must be considered and taken into account in all matters affecting him or her.
The following are some important Articles pertaining to UNCRC:
Article 1: Definition of a Child: "Children" are defined as all the people under 18 years of age.

Article 2: Non-Discrimination: All the rights guaranteed under the UNCRC Convention shall be applicable to all the children without any sort of discrimination.

Article 3: Best Interests of the Child: All the actions concerning children must be based on his or her best interests.

Article 4: Implementation of Rights: The State has an obligation to translate the rights of the Convention into reality.

Article 5: Family Guidance as Children Develop: The State has a duty to respect the rights and responsibilities of parents in the upbringing of the child in a manner appropriate to the child's evolving capacities.

Article 6: Life, Survival and Development: The child has an inherent right to life, and the State has an obligation to ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.

Article 7: Name and Nationality: The child has the right to be registered, to have a name from birth and to be granted a nationality. In addition, the child has the right to know and be cared for his or her parents.

Article 8: Preservation of Identity: The State has an obligation to protect child's identity.

Article 12: Respect for Children's Views: The child has the right to express an opinion, in accordance with his or her age and maturity.

Article 16: Protection of Privacy: The child has the right to protection from interference with privacy, family, home and correspondence, and from libel or slander.

Article 18: Parental Responsibilities: The State has an obligation to recognize and promote the principle that both parents or legal guardians have common responsibilities for the upbringing and development of the child.

Article 19: Protection from Violence: The State has an obligation to protect children from all forms of abuse and neglect, to provide support to those who have been abused and to investigate instances of abuse.

Article 20: Protection of Children without Families: The State has an obligation to provide special protection for children without families.

Article 21: Adopted Children: Adoption in countries where adoption is recognized and/or allowed, it shall only be carried out in the best interests of the child, with all necessary safeguards for the child.

Article 22: Refugee Children: This article states that special protection is to be granted to children who are refugees or seeking refuge status.

Article 23: Children with Disabilities: Children with a mental or physical disability have the right to special care and education.

Article 32: Child Labour: The State has an obligation to protect children from engaging in work that negatively impacts their health, education or development.

Article 33: Drug Abuse: The child has a right to protection from illicit use of narcotic drugs.

Article 34: Sexual Exploitation: The child has the right to protection from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, including prostitution and involvement in pornography.

Article 40: Administration of Juvenile Justice: Children accused of having committed an offence have the right to benefit from all aspects of the due process of law.

Optional Protocol To The Convention On The Rights Of The Child

In 2000, two optional protocols were added to the UNCRC:
  1. The first protocol asks Governments to ensure that children under the age of 18 years are not forcibly recruited into their armed forces.
  2. The second protocol calls on States to prohibit child prostitution, child pornography and the sale of children into slavery.
These now have been ratified by more than 120 States.

A Third Protocol was added in 2011. This enables children whose rights have been violated to complaint directly to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Best Interest Principle: General Comment 14

Best Interest Principle has gained relevancy at international level. It states about a principle that irrespective of age, children thought, and opinion should be considered from their own perspectives. However, the criticism of this principle is that it being euro-centric, it might not be adaptable to Asian people.

General Comment 14 enshrines Best Interest Principle as:
  1. Recognition of children as right holders.
  2. Obligation of State parties to respect their every child as they have a right to live with dignity.
  3. There is an obligation on State and court to consider the primary interest of the child while making policies.

The Cultural Practice Of "Bacha Posh" In Afghanistan

What Is Bacha Posh?

Bacha Posh is a cultural practice in Afghanistan and other parts of the Middle East and Central Asia in which some families with no sons will dress one of their daughters as a boy. This practice is used to give the family the social and economic advantages associated with having a male child.

This practice has been around for centuries and is still practiced in some parts of the country today. The practice is seen as a way to give girls the same rights and privileges as boys, such as access to education, employment opportunities and inheritance rights.

The practice of bacha posh is rooted in the traditional gender roles of Afghanistan. In a society where women are often seen as second-class citizens, bacha posh allows girls to experience the same freedoms and opportunities as boys. This includes access to education, employment, and even the ability to participate in sports. By dressing and living as boys, girls are able to gain access to resources and opportunities that would otherwise be denied to them.

The practice of bacha posh is not without its critics. Some argue that it reinforces traditional gender roles and reinforces the idea that girls are inferior to boys. Others argue that it is a form of gender-based discrimination and that it should be abolished.

Despite the criticism, bacha posh is still practiced in some parts of Afghanistan. For many families, it is seen as a way to give their daughters the same opportunities as their sons. It is also seen as a way to protect their daughters from the dangers of living in a patriarchal society.

Reasons For Bacha Posh

The following are the reasons for the rise of Bacha Posh culture in Afghanistan:
  1. Lack of Education and Economic Opportunities:
    The primary reason for bacha posh is the lack of economic opportunities for women in Afghanistan. In a patriarchal society, women are often denied access to education, employment, and other resources. Eventually, families with no sons may feel that their daughters may be unable to provide for them in future.
  2. Traditional Belief:
    Another reason for bacha posh is the traditional Afghan belief that sons are more valuable than daughters. In a society where sons are seen as the breadwinners and protectors of the family, having a son is seen as a source of pride and status. Dressing their daughters as boys gives families the opportunity to experience the pride and status associated with having a son.
  3. Social Pressure:
    In Afghanistan, there is a lot of social pressure to have sons. Families without sons are often seen as incomplete, so they may choose to raise a daughter as a son in order to fulfil their expectation.
  4. Protection of Daughters from Violence and Early Marriages:
    Bacha Posh is also seen as a way to protect daughters from the dangers of being a woman in Afghanistan. In a society where women are often subjected to violence and discrimination, dressing their daughters as boys can provide them with a sense of safety and security. In Afghanistan, girls are often married off at a young age, often too much older men. Bacha posh is a way for families to protect their daughters from this practice.
  5. Avoid Discrimination:
    In some cases, families may choose to dress their daughters as boys in order to avoid discrimination. This is especially true in areas where girls are not allowed to attend school or participate in public life.
  6. Lack of Financial Resources:
    One of the main reasons for bacha posh in Afghanistan is the lack of financial resources. Many families in Afghanistan are unable to provide for their daughters, so they choose to raise them as boys in order to give them more opportunities.

Positive Consequences Of Bacha Posh

The positive consequences of Bacha Posh are stated below:
  1. Increased freedom and independence:
    As a Bacha Posh, girls are given more freedom and independence than their female counterparts. They are allowed to play outside, go to school, and participate in activities that are traditionally reserved for boys.
  2. Increased economic opportunities:
    Bacha Posh has allowed women to gain access to economic opportunities that were previously unavailable to them. This has allowed them to become more financially independent and empowered.
  3. Improved education opportunities:
    Bacha Posh has allowed women to gain access to educational opportunities that were earlier denied to them. This has allowed them to gain knowledge and skills that can help them in their future endeavors.
  4. Increased social acceptance:
    Bacha Posh has allowed women to gain social acceptance in a society that was traditionally dominated by men. This has allowed them to gain more respect and recognition in their communities.
  5. Improved health outcomes:
    Bacha Posh has allowed women to gain access to health care services that were prohibited for them. This has permitted them to lead healthier lives and reduce their risk of developing health problems.
  6. Increased protection:
    As a Bacha Posh, girls are often given more protection from potential harm than their female counterparts. This includes protection from physical and sexual abuse, as well as protection from being forced into early marriages.

Negative Consequences Of Bacha Posh

  1. Identity Crises:
    Becoming a Bacha Posh can lead to identity crisis, as the individual is no longer seen as a girl, but as a boy. This can lead to confusion and feelings of alienation.
  2. Social Isolation:
    As a Bacha Posh, the individual may be socially isolated from their peers, as they are not seen as a girl and may not be accepted by either gender. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression.
  3. Low Self-Esteem:
    Becoming a Bacha Posh can lead to a decrease in self-esteem, as the individual may feel that they are not accepted by either gender. This can lead to feelings of worthlessness and insecurity.
  4. Anxiety:
    The individual may experience anxiety due to the fear of being discovered as a Bacha Posh. This can lead to feelings of fear and panic.
  5. Stress:
    The individual may experience stress due to the pressure of having to maintain their disguise as a boy. This can lead to feelings of exhaustion and overwhelm.

Heart Wrenching Stories Pertaining To Bacha Posh

Story Of Subhnam

The Underground Girls of Kabul: The Hidden Lives of Afghan Girls Disguised as Boys authored by Jenny Nordberg narrates the story of Subhnam, a bacha posh. Her decision to become a bacha posh isn't influenced by a desire for a boy child. Subhnam's mother, Nahid, has one son, but circumstances compel her to transform her daughter into a boy. As a victim of her husband's constant violence, Nahid dared to leave her marriage and stand for herself. But, as a single mother of three children, which is nearly unheard of in Kabul, she was entitled to balance her family with an extra son in order for everyone to feel safe and secure.

A single mother with multiple boys is cherished. In Afghan society, a single or divorced lady is stigmatised. A woman's respectability and honour are determined only by her relationship with males. In a world where maleness appears to be synonymous with respectability, Nahid defies strict patriarchal standards of behaviour by 'turning' her daughter into a boy. It is fueled by a desire for security.

Story Of Bakhtawara

Dear Zari: Hidden Stories from Women in Afghanistan authored by Zarhuna Kargar is a compilation of real-life stories of Afghanistan women. Bakhtawara dares to share her real-life experience of being a bacha posh in a BBC's special program titled "Afghan Women's Hour". Bakhtawara's story reveals the inherent disparities of bacha posh. The power battles in her culture have left scars in her life. Her body is a trampled playground. Her identity as a girl has been faded and her desires have been hushed.

Bakhtawara's life is a testimony of the cultural practice of Bacha Posh in Afghanistan. On the one hand, the society she lives in has taken away her right to live as a woman; on the other hand, she has gained a level of freedom that no other Afghan woman could ever hope to achieve. Her family compels her to discard her female identity. It only takes "dressing her as a boy" to deprive her of her individuality. She is supposed to give up her own persona and ambitions in order to satisfy her father's wish for a male child. Her parents didn't pause to consider the potential harm to their child; they simply began to treat her as their second son.

In a feudalistic Pashtun society where a male child symbolizes security and economic prosperity, Bakhtawara's metamorphosis to a bacha posh is fueled by the craving for security and a male heir. Bakhtawara realized the gravity of the situation when her father handed her his rifle. In Afghan tradition, 'being handed' a rifle represents the transfer of power and duties. It means that Bakhtawara, as a man, is now completely responsible for the family's safety and honor. Honour is everything to a Pashtun. In the name of honor, families have been torn apart, crimes are perpetrated, and women are punished, murdered and mutilated.

The Horrendous Practice Of "Bacha Bazi" In Afghanistan

What Is Bacha Bazi?

"Bacha Bazi" which translates to "boy play" in English, is a form of child sexual exploitation that has been practiced in Afghanistan for centuries. It involves wealthy or powerful men, known as bacha baz, taking young boys, known as bacha bareish, from poor families and using them as sexual objects and servants. The boys are often dressed in women's clothing and made to dance and entertain the bacha baz and their guests. This practice has been condemned by the international community, yet it continues to be a widespread problem in Afghanistan.

History Of Bacha Bazi

Bacha Bazi has been practiced in Afghanistan for centuries, but it has become increasingly prevalent since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. The Taliban had outlawed the practice, but since their fall, it has become more widespread.

Victims Of Bacha Bazi

The victims of Bacha Bazi are primarily young boys, typically between the ages of 10 and 18 years, who are forced into sexual slavery by wealthy or powerful men. The boys are often kidnapped or lured away from their families with promises of money and a better life. Mostly the targeted boys are from poor families, and they are then subjected to physical and sexual abuse and are often trafficked to other countries.

Perpetrators Of Bacha Bazi

The perpetrators of Bacha Bazi are typically wealthy and powerful men, including warlords, politicians and police officers.

Causes Of Bacha Bazi

The causes of Bacha Bazi in Afghanistan are complex and multi-faceted. Poverty, lack of education, and traditional gender roles are all contributing factors.
  1. Poverty:
    Poverty is a major factor as many families are unable to provide for their children and are willing to sell them into this form of exploitation.
  2. Lack of Education:
    Lack of Education also contributes to the problem as many families are unaware of the dangers of Bacha Bazi and the legal implications of engaging in it.
  3. Traditional Gender Roles:
    This also comes into picture as boys are seen as more expendable than girls and are more likely to be sold into this form of exploitation. Additionally, the lack of economic opportunities for women in Afghanistan has led to a culture of male domination and exploitation of vulnerable populations.

Implications Of Bacha Bazi

The following have a negative impact on the boys who are forced into sexual exploitation:
  1. Psychological Impact:
    Bacha Bazi has a severe psychological impact on the victims, as they are often subjected to physical and sexual abuse. This can lead to long-term psychological trauma, including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  2. Social Stigma:
    Former dancing boys face social stigma when attempting to regain a manly identity. They are unable to find suitable employment or a career, thus many of them turn to drugs or alcohol as coping techniques.
  3. Violation of Women Rights:
    Bacha Bazi have a negative impact on women rights in Afghanistan. Despite having wives, these perpetrators flock towards these young boys, which indicates a loss of interest in their opposite sex. Women are primarily considered as child-bearing machines. If this practise is not stopped, it will be carried on through generations.

Preventive Mechanisms Of Bacha Bazi

According to international conventions and Afghan national legislation, Bacha Bazi is prohibited. Bach Bazi, for example, is outlawed by the Universal Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and other human rights conventions that Afghanistan has ratified.

The state's commitment to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse of children is stressed in Article 34 of the Universal Convention on the Rights of the Child: "State party should take appropriate measures to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse of children." According to these treaties, the state party is required to combat child sexual exploitation and to protect children from all forms of exploitation.

The Afghan government ultimately initiated action to eradicate Bacha Bazi, revising the country's criminal code to make it a criminal offence. Afghanistan's amended penal code, which went into effect in February 2018, criminalized not only the recruitment and use of children in military forces, but also Bacha Bazi. Chapter Five of Afghanistan's penal code has 15 articles that not only criminalize Bacha Bazi, but also those who are indirectly involved or participate in such meetings.

The Law on Child Protection was considered in Afghanistan's Parliament, and many parliament members opposed the legislation, believing it violated Islamic beliefs. This law was recently passed and is now in effect. Bacha Bazi is likewise prohibited under Chapter 15, Article 99 of the Child Protection Law.

The legal system in Afghanistan is complicated, with three concurrent regulatory frameworks: customary, religious and statutory. Due to the legal system's diversity, there are many standards and systems in place to handle disputes and practices such as Bacha Bazi. Local warlords wield extraordinary authority over communities in Afghanistan. One of the primary reasons why national legislation has been relatively ineffective in eradicating Bacha Bazi is because of these intricate power dynamics.

Failure Of Afghanistan Government To Tackle Bacha Bazi

People wield power in Afghanistan, and the government plays a minor role. People generally believe that the source of truth is God's law, which they feel should be followed. The government lacks the necessary resources to make the practice illegal. Change can only occur through a cultural shift, which will necessitate face-to-face conversations with local officials as well as condemnation from religious leaders. However, in Afghanistan, the offenders have been protected by the police, who are afraid of upsetting prominent warlords and businesspeople.

Taking into consideration the above cultural practice of Bacha Posh in Afghanistan, there are several solutions that can be worked upon by the Afghan people along with Afghan government to promote gender-equality. These include access to education to girls, providing economic opportunities for women and raising awareness about the issue taking aid from NGOs or support groups to combat with the Bacha Posh practice.

Addressing the horrendous act of Bacha Bazi, this can also be curbed by educating the public about the dangers of bacha bazi and the legal consequences of engaging in it can help to reduce its prevalence. Strengthening laws against bacha bazi and increasing enforcement of those laws can help to deter people from engaging in the practice. Increasing access to justice for victims of bacha bazi can help to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable and that victims are able to seek redress.

Providing alternative livelihoods for those who are involved in bacha bazi can help to reduce the prevalence of the practice. Providing support to victims of bacha bazi can help to reduce the prevalence of the practice by providing them with the resources they need to escape and rebuild their lives.


  • Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Tanvi Trivedi
    Awarded certificate of Excellence
    Authentication No: JU352935197199-12-0623

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