Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Is Afghan rape of boys a rural phenomenon?

The Afghan practice or "tradition" of raping boys has been very much in the news the past few days. This line in a New York Times story on the topic caught my attention because of its mention of rurality:
[Raping boys] is rampant among the pro-government commanders who dominate many rural areas of northern Afghanistan and run militias that at times team with American-led forces.
The suggestion here is that this practice is a rural one and, I think by implication, that rurality is place that lacks the civilizing influence of the city.  Does this mean that boys are not raped in this way in Kabul?  or that they are raped there only when the rural, pro-government commanders come to town?  In any event, I wonder about the work that the word "rural" does in this sentence and in this story.  I can't help think of the famous male-on-male rape in the movie "Deliverance."


Daniel Quinley said...

I think Afghanistan is an interesting place to discuss ruralism. I certainly don't think the rape is a phenomenon that is limited to rural communities or rural commanders. And I wonder about the author's use of the term rural here. Kabul is certainly not a rural city, with a metro population of over 3 million. But, even with this population, Kabul and Afghanistan have always felt like a rural hinterland. There is no denying that it is isolated geographically, and culturally. But, I find that the opening line's of the argument are more persuasive, "many wealthy and prominent Afghans rape boys, often making them dress up as women and dance at gatherings during which they are assaulted."

Here, the suggestion seems to be that it is the wealthy and powerful that have institutionalized rape. So is it just coincidence that rural northern commanders are those in power, and therefore those who are currently carrying out the rapes? I remember reading the same thing about Taliban commanders several years ago.

In this context, I think the author may be using rural as shorthand for, "uncivilized", or perhaps, "tribal traditions that have no place in a moral world." Which also speaks volumes to the American perception of rural, and the conflicting ideals that the rural portrays: idyllic and uncivilized.

Dakota Sinclair said...

I agree with Dan in that the author almost seems to be indicating rural is uncivilized. I would contend that the author is wilfully ignoring that rape happens everywhere, including urban areas. Perhaps this is how urbanites can feel safer at night: an Afghan rural commander would rape a young boy but surely this would never happen in our fair and just society in the safe zone of the urban world.

As seen here even in the US 1 in 20 boys are sexually abused. This is not a crime that is limited to other countries or parts of a country, but something that occurs everywhere.

The sad reality is that in this instance a man abused his position of authority to have sexual favors from a local child. It was systematic in the armed forces that are supposed to be allied to US armed forces. But the author in the article almost seems to imply that it's the Afghan rural zone that promotes this. I agree that it echoes the stereotypying present in Deliverance, with the banjo plucking, man-on-man rape, indicative that this is the culture of the uneducated yokels.