Want to know where women are truly oppressed and unvalued in society? It’s not America, as modern feminists claim, but in other parts of the world.
In Afghanistan, for example, a truly patriarchal society views girls as a burden and families that fail to produce male heirs often raise their daughters as boys, dressing them as such and carrying out chores typically performed by boys. CNN on Tuesday reported the story of Madina Karimy, later renamed Mangal and raised as a boy. The media outlet referred to the child using male pronouns and said the child preferred using her male identity. Of course, Karimy said “yes” when asked if she liked being a boy as she sat next to her father for the interview, but she also said she “would like to go back to being a girl when I grow up.”
The outlet spoke to Sodaba Ehrari, the chief editor of the Afghanistan Women News Agency, who said women in Afghanistan “cannot earn money to support their families, they cannot live alone — and so many reasons (like this) lead them in this patriarchal society to practice bacha posh.”
“Bacha posh” is the term used to describe girls being raised as boys in Afghanistan. Translated from Dari, it means “dressed as a boy.”
Ehrari told CNN that families she spoke to who practice bacha posh “hide or don’t want to show others that they have daughter.” These families said it is an honor to have a son, but “having a daughter is a shame.”
Nadia Hashimi, an Afghan-American pediatrician and best-selling author on the subject, told CNN that “no one who has only sons is transforming them into a daughter.” She said superstition in the country suggests raising a bacha posh child will “turn the hand of fate, so that the next child born into the family will be a boy.”
CNN explained that girls live as boys only temporarily — before puberty. They then resume living as girls, “something that doesn’t always come easily,” the outlet reported.
Karimy’s father, Khoda Bakhsh Karimy, told CNN that he loves Madina (he used her birth name) more because of the work she does for the family.
“I love all my daughters but I love Madina more as I ask her to do work like ‘go take care of the cattle’ or ‘bring something to a neighbor,'” he told the outlet. “Otherwise there is no difference between them.” Hashimi said bacha posh was practiced all across Afghanistan by families of all classes. From CNN:
Author Hashimi says that Afghanistan’s love for its sons has practical roots. In this agricultural economy it’s the boys who chop wood, plow the field, travel independently and work outside the home, she says. And when they marry, their wives — and the next generation of children — are absorbed into the family.
For girls, it’s a very different story. A daughter is expected to be “demure” and “help with domestic chores,” says Hashimi. Outside the home, a girl “haggling in the market” or “looking adults in the eye” would come as a shock for some people, she adds.