This is a form of institutionalized child sex slavery that we hear little about. It is called "bacha bazi" or "boy play" and in countries like Afghanistan it is not only acceptable it is a culturally sanctioned status symbol...every male leader must have his "boy toy" or several of them.
We read every day about the horrible plague of rape and sexual abuse of little girls, which, according to the UN is sadly on the rise, "The 2014 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, produced by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, also found that the proportion of children among victims appeared to be rising." (NY Times 11/24/14)
Why is it that we don't hear about the sexual abuse of boys which is widespread throughout the Middle East and Africa? The answer is simple... this is a dirty little secret that is best kept in the dark. That may be true for the military but it is NOT true for the little boys whose lives are destroyed.
When the church sex scandals started to unfold some years ago, it was mostly boys who were the victims, and again, for decades, this was swept under the rug...a dirty little secret.
My take on this is that as a society we all can imagine (while not condoning) heterosexual sex even if it is rape of a girl child...but homosexual sex with little boys is considered so antithetical to our norms that it is something we cannot comprehend. Thus it is best left undiscussed...keep it in the closet, under the rug.
The Pashtun have a saying that "women are for children and boys are for pleasure." Pashtun social norms dictate that bacha bazi is not un-Islamic or homosexual at all -- if the man does not love the boy, the sexual act is not reprehensible, and is far more ethical than defiling a woman. (Pashtun Sexuality by Human Terrain Team, 2009).
How easy it is to justify one's own failings.
Sadly this practice is not confined to Afghanistan several other communities around the Middle East and Africa are also involved. In Sudan, for example, "Animist and Christian black Africans in Southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains have paid a steep price for refusing to submit to the North...Human rights and local tribal groups estimate the number enslaved ranges from 14,000 to 200,000." Many of these slaves as this article goes on to point out are boys used for both labor and sexual service to their masters."
What I find particularly interesting about this is that these same cultures openly denounce homosexuality and subject adult homosexuals to the most horrible deaths by flogging and stoning...talk about double standards....but as mentioned earlier if the man does not "love" the child he can do as he pleases no matter the impact on that child....rationalization at its worst.
Back to the US Military...as proud as I usually am of our military, I am ashamed to hear about this policy of "turning a blind eye". This appeared in the NY Times "... Soldiers and Marines have been increasingly troubled that instead of weeding out pedophiles, the American military was arming them in some cases and placing them as the commanders of villages -- and doing little when they began abusing children."
Little boys all over the world are crying out in their anguish and we not only don't hear them...WE REFUSE TO HEAR THEM. From the famous Peter Paul and Mary hit "how many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn't see..."
As Americans we must express our outrage and we must instruct our forces overseas to intervene in any case of child sexual abuse they see...whether the child be male or female. These children are powerless and we are their only hope and when our military stands up for them they should receive a medal not be summarily discharged as this article demonstrates.
Just as it is an unacceptable justification of abuse to say it is OK if "love" is not involved it is also an unacceptable justification to say that we must support the "norms" of our allies...even when they are abhorrent and damaging to children.