A bacha posh (literally “dressed up like a boy” in Dari) is a third kind of child – a girl who will be raised as a boy and presented as a son to the world. Jenny Nordberg, the reporter who broke this story for The New York Times, constructs a dramatic account of Afghan women and girls clandestinely living on the other side of the gender divide that grants half its population almost no rights and little freedom.
Photo: Adam Ferguson/The New York Times
In Afghanistan, “bacha posh” is the literal term for a girl who is dressed up, and disguised as, a boy. These children are part of a hidden practice in which parents disguise daughters as sons.
image credit: readerlymag
Instead of wearing a headscarf, and a skirt or a dress, a little girl will get a short haircut and a pair of pants, and she’ll be sent off into the world as one of the boys.The bacha posh look like boys, they learn to behave like boys, and to those around them who don’t know, they are Afghan boys.
There are no official statistics, but most Afghans will know at least one bacha posh in their family or community, according to Nordberg.The child will normally only be allowed to return to life as girl once she goes through puberty.
The practice can occur in any household, writes Nordberg, regardless of wealth, status or ethnicity. “The only thing that binds the bacha posh girls together is their families’ need for a son in a society that undervalues daughters and demands sons at almost any cost.”