Kandahar, the "gay capital of South Asia"
January 12, 2002 9:07 AM   Subscribe

Kandahar, the "gay capital of South Asia" is coming back out of the closet with the forced departure of the Taliban. "Such is the Pashtun obsession with sodomy — locals tell you that birds fly over the city using only one wing, the other covering their posterior..."
posted by mr_crash_davis (28 comments total)
Did anyone tell John Walker about this before he signed up? Maybe they did. Maybe they did....
posted by holycola at 9:45 AM on January 12, 2002

Don't ask. Don't tell...our boys, says Rumsfeld, will be there a long time.
posted by Postroad at 10:04 AM on January 12, 2002

That makes it look like the people wanted the Taliban in charge, and now the warlords are back in power.

That whole article disgusts me. I'd like to see the multiculturalists justify that sort of lifestyle.
posted by insomnyuk at 10:09 AM on January 12, 2002

Puts a new spin on Rambo's friendship with the little boy in Rambo III. Come to think of it, RAMbo and Trautman's relationship could be suspect, too. You, too, could own a symbol of Rambo's masculinity!
There may be a First Blood Part 4

On a serious note, we multculturalists don't need to justify anything. Arabic countries have had these man/boy relationships for a long, long time; who are we to judge?

Oh, that's right, we're America. It's our Christian duty to pass harsh judgement on anyone not like us.
posted by tcobretti at 10:32 AM on January 12, 2002

before this thread becomes too ugly, let's all be aware that the author is conflating two very different things here: the abhorrent practice of the sexual abuse of children ("These boys are nearly always innocent, but such is the poverty here, they cannot refuse") and the sexual practices between consenting adults or consenting teenagers or any two people where there isn't this socioeconomic pressure at stake. substitute "young girls" and "thailand" here and you'd have the same story about a certain segment of culture (not all pashtuns, not all thais, obviously) that condones some kinds of child abuse.

let's not make the same mistake conflating our own "don't ask, don't tell" sexual preference concerns with what seems from this article to be something much more horrific.
posted by judith at 10:41 AM on January 12, 2002

and by "our own", i meant "official american policy" rather than our individual sexual preferences, of course.
posted by judith at 10:42 AM on January 12, 2002

well said, judith,
posted by tcobretti at 10:58 AM on January 12, 2002

upon rereading the article, very well said, judith
posted by tcobretti at 11:01 AM on January 12, 2002

Oh, that's right, we're America. It's our Christian duty to pass harsh judgement on anyone not like us.

Who are we to judge? I was not suggesting in any way that America should somehow modify it's foreign policy because of this practice, I was merely suggesting that the predatory practices of these wealthier men on poor, young boys is a bad thing. Tcobretti, did you read the article? Upon preview, it looks like you did. Heh.
posted by insomnyuk at 11:07 AM on January 12, 2002

I'd like to see the multiculturalists justify that sort of lifestyle.

This may be off-topic, but what does this mean? I'm not up on what multicultralists stand for, but I feel sure that they don't advocate sexually abusing children.

(What is a multiculturalist, anyway? Sounds like one of those labels people use when they don't know what they mean except that they don't like something, like "homosexual agenda" or "liberal media".)
posted by RylandDotNet at 11:33 AM on January 12, 2002

Certain basic human rights are inalienable. The right not to be sexually abused is one of them. If certain cultures condone predatory sexual habits, by no stretch of imagination can it be excused in the name of 'multiculturalism'.

Mostly, only when a more dynamic culture start interacting with a static society that social changes/ reform happens. People's turning a blind eye to a feudal lord's forceful sodomization a boy is a social acceptance that is crying for reform.

But the practice of poor teenage kids letting themselves be seduced by older men dont have as much to do with culture, as it has with poverty. In that sense it is not very different from teenage prostitution in Thailand referred to in a previous mail, kids in Srilanka catering to Arthur C Clerk or kids in inner cities of LA turning to drug peddling. Unless you can sort out the root cause, people will always look for avenues for escape - even if that escape turns out not to be an escape after all.
posted by justlooking at 12:30 PM on January 12, 2002

Of, relating to, or including several cultures.
Of or relating to a social or educational theory that encourages interest in many cultures within a society rather than in only a mainstream culture.

Being a multiculturalist is not a bad thing, at least by this definition. When I said multiculturalists, I'm referring to the sort of person who does not condemn any action in any country as wrong, because it's "right for them." An example would be the practice of satee in India, where a widow voluntarily throws herself on her husband's funeral pyre, or the townspeople throw her on themselves. When the British colonized India, the native people said (regarding satee, this is paraphrased) "That is a time honored tradition in our culture," in response to British opposition. The British responded with, "We also have a cultural tradition, we hang people who kill widows." Sorry for going so far offtopic.
posted by insomnyuk at 12:35 PM on January 12, 2002

I'm not a bird, but I think it would be pretty hard to fly while covering your ass.
posted by David Dark at 1:25 PM on January 12, 2002

Insomnyuk: I agree.

To extend from your example of 'Satee': In eighteenth century Bengal, hundreds of Bengali youth started questioning existent social ideas thanks to their exposure to Western education when the Indian society had started ossifying. It was a 'muliticulturalist' among them - Raja Rammohan Roy who saw the incredible savagery of the practice of 'Satee' who along with his more influencial friends started pushing the British government to ban the practice. (The Brits were initially not too enthusiastic about upsetting the applecart. but Indophiles won the day. Sorry about getting off topic ... that Satee stuff kind of hit close to heart.). Similarly, in contemporary India, the practice of casteism is getting marginlized by the more 'multicultural' youth who have been marrying outside their caste, religion, race and are gradually changing the more insular Indian society.

But sometimes positive change has to be pushed down the throat of a people. There is also a time and place for that. I think the time in Afganistan is now. The international community will miss a golden chance if they let the tribal feudal landlords with their practices of ashna and burquas etc. hijack the hard won reprieve in Afganistan.
posted by justlooking at 1:32 PM on January 12, 2002

The word in the title should have been paedophile rather than "gay". Imagine the same place with little girls being systematically sexually abused and calling it the straight capital of the world.

I would also dispute "capital of the world" but don't feel like looking for references to the many other places where paedophilia goes unpunished.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:53 PM on January 12, 2002

These "boys" are teenagers: "the age they like is 15 or 16." I'd call them youths. Pederasty is not pedophilia (nor is paederasty, paedophilia).

An, those Greeks! "...Alexander the Great reached all the way to India, some parts of his force settled in what is the modern day Afghanistan."
posted by Carol Anne at 2:06 PM on January 12, 2002

Carol Anne's comparison to ancient Greek pederasty is right on the money. Like most modern Americans, I have a difficult time wrapping my mind around so foreign a cultural practice without all my values flaring up in alarm. And I certainly don't think it is neutral (it would be abhorrent) to introduce pederastic practices into our society. But the facile comparisons to pedophilia are not right. The moral meaning of an act is not still discernible when you yank it out of its social context. I don't have a hard time seeing that the public, institutionalized courtships of ancient Athens, when they resulted in intercrural sex or whatever, were not the pathologies of your average episode of "Law & Order: SVU."

Evaluating the moral status of "voluntary" acts under social (satee example above) or economic (the Afghan issue) pressures is not easy. I get the feeling that, because of the incredible taboo in the Muslim world against same-sex sexual relations of any kind, it is very difficult for us to really understand how these sexual practices are embedded in the fabric of a culture. We lack good information because every informant is too interested in mystifying the facts.

Also, the idea of a "child" (a term itself, as Carol Anne says, that is loaded and could mean different things) as an economic and sexual being is highly culturally specific.

It is so easy to win agreement about these things by asking, "Well, would you want your child to experience this?" But these wants for our children are not universals.
posted by Zurishaddai at 2:32 PM on January 12, 2002

The age of consent in the US is usually 16, but remains as low as 14 in some states. There seems to be no known age of consent for Afghanistan, but surrounding nations set it at 16, 18, or even "none" (Pakistan).

Arab views on homosexuality are filtered through different eyes than ours. For one thing, under strict Islam, men and women do not date. Companionship before marriage is often limited to other men, especially isolated military groups. This kind of 'gay' sex is not always condoned but it is often accepted. It isn't seen as branding a person as gay. One theory suggested that terrorists, especially al Qaeda members, might have developed a sexual rage based on being sodomized, either as young boys or -- perhaps even more likely -- as older young men who were weaker and effeminate. I think one can say that this has many similarities to sexuality (and its power considerations) found in prison, though probably because that's one of the few remaining places in the West where men are completely segregated from women. The same sort of thing used to happen to sailors, especially in navies based on conscription and irregular merchant marines.

Good points about the concept of "child" -- adolescence is a very recent cultural phenomenon. In most societies a child who is old enough to work is practically considered an adult.

I'm not sure I think this is something to condone, but being "disgusted" certainly seems to be a precipitous reaction -- especially if it means treating sodomy as a capital crime as under the Taliban.
posted by dhartung at 4:38 PM on January 12, 2002

The Jesus was a pederast.
posted by David Dark at 5:49 PM on January 12, 2002

(...)the rape of young boys by warlords was one of the key factors in Mullah Omar mobilising the Taleban.

In the summer of 1994, a few months before the Taleban took control of the city, two commanders confronted each other over a young boy whom they both wanted to sodomise.

In the ensuing fight civilians were killed. Omar’s group freed the boy and appeals began flooding in for Omar to help in other disputes.

My comment referred to these reported facts; not to the larger society.

Young boys are raped. So the rapists "prefer" them to be "15 or 16". So what?

I feel there's a touch of inverse ethnocentrism here. Why should moral standards be less stringent when less developed countries are involved?

Child prostitution(labour, etc)is also "consented" in very poor countries, not least by the children and teenagers involved. Does this make it "cultural", i.e, probably not as bad as it seems, as long as it's others doing it some other country?

In the first place, neither paedophilia or pederasty is a cultural characteristic of the Afghans. Or Muslims. Or indeed any culture I can think of.

I think the Universal Declaration of Human Rights should be our guide here.

Secondly, to compare these raping and murderous warlords to the civilization of ancient Greeks - which looked favourably on man-boy sexual and academic relationships - is, I'm sorry, outrageous.

Sometimes it's just better to admit that, in every society, whether you're gay or straight, certain people sexually abuse others with no regard to their rights or age.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:48 PM on January 12, 2002

miguel: I don't feel moral standards should be less stringent when applied to less developed countries, but morals are one of those aspects of life that have a very small ( if none at all ), impact on the business of daily living in less developed countries.

When your focus is getting some warlords d*** out of your a***, morality does not exist, survival however does and sometimes when you are concerned with staying alive and getting fed etc, you may just want that rulers d*** up there so you are fed the next day. Morals, in my opinion arrive only after a significant part of society(any) reaches a level of intellect, by which I mean education, standards of basic living etc.
posted by bittennails at 7:21 PM on January 12, 2002

Bittennails: you're right, of course. The rule of law, though(as perversely proved by the Taliban)would have to be added to your qualifications.

What I meant was that I imagine the great majority of Afghanis, despite their poverty, are just as shocked as we are by rape, sexual abuse and slavery.

This was largely held as the reason why the Taliban were initially welcomed.

But your points remain. When standards of living are very low, the "gotta eat, gotta survive" attitude does make talk of morality a bit effete. Though I believe it does exist - perhaps even more so, as it's not consciously repressed.

Islam is pretty clear on all these matters. And much less forgiving.

I still think, though, that our attitude towards these outrages should be just as demanding as to those among us who carry out the same crimes in the West.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:19 PM on January 12, 2002

I dunno know about you guys, but I just booked a flight to Kandahar!
posted by crustbuster at 8:47 AM on January 13, 2002

morals are one of those aspects of life that have a very small ( if none at all ), impact on the business of daily living in less developed countries.

This is not "right, of course." Morality is what ordinary people everywhere use to guide their daily behavior. You may not agree with their morals, of course, and morals are notoriously variable. But most communities--and this is as true in "less developed countries" as anywhere--have a very strongly developed sense of what is right and acceptable. As Miguel says, sexual victimization is, I don't think, any more acceptable to ordinary Afghans than it is to "enlightened" middle class Westerners.

What's lacking in places such as the one described here is law. A community without the means to enforce its morality is vulnerable to any prick with the power to abuse people. Warlords and other systems of power abuse happen in a power vacuum, though the expression of the abuse may take many forms. There are many "less developed countries" where this particular form of abuse would be unthinkable. There isn't widespread "sodomy" in sub-Saharan Africa, as far as I know, or Southeast Asia.

"Less developed countries" in economic terms may be as sophisticated culturally and as civil legally as anywhere. Conflating poverty and amorality is a propaganda trick, a handy way for a denizen of the developed world (or, in this case, an Indian) to stigmatize their cultural opponents.

The less said about crustbuster, the better.
posted by rodii at 9:47 AM on January 13, 2002

> Morality is what ordinary people everywhere use to guide their daily behavior.

Don't think I can agree with that rodii. I think morality is developed, and if, in life, you never get a chance to develop it, due to any reasons (in my point it was base survival), you don't use it to guide your behaviour.
posted by bittennails at 6:07 AM on January 14, 2002

I don't understand. Are you saying they don't have any sense of morality at all, or just that you disapprove of their morals? Completely amoral individuals are rare enough; communities without any sense of right or wrong, even if they're stunted or twisted from our point of view, must be well-nigh nonexistent. I've known refugee communities from Ethiopia and Rwanda, who surely are as concerned with "base survival" as any Afghan, and they have a healthy sense of right and wrong, having seen a lot of both.

Undoubtedly, desperate people sometimes do bad things, and brutalized people can passively let atrocities happen. Neither of those is the same as being amoral. And, to go back to your original point, most "less developed countries," even if badly off, are in nothing like the straits that Ethiopia, Rwanda, or Afghanistan found themselves in. Poor nations have enough trouble on their hands without being dehumanized as amoral. It might even be suggested that amorality is more a problem of affluence than poverty.
posted by rodii at 6:26 AM on January 14, 2002

Let me try and explain my point. My original point was made in response to the question as to whether moral standards should be applied less stringently to less developed countries. I responded by saying that morals are off less or no importance in a situation that the article talked of.

10-14 year old boys who have never had the oppurtunity to develop normally and have been brutalized do not develop moral standards that have any reference to the way developed nations view morals.

I am not attempting to dehumanize poor nations, I am from one, my point is that moral standards of developed countries do not apply in the situation the article discussed.
Right or wrong is not an absolute, it just varies, and moral indignation is not warranted in situations where survival comes first.
posted by bittennails at 6:45 AM on January 14, 2002

OK, fair enough, though I think linking it with a nation's economic or intellectual development, as you did above, is a non sequitur.
posted by rodii at 6:53 AM on January 14, 2002

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