A headline in today's Daily telegraph brought me up short.
Paedophilia 'culturally accepted in south Afghanistan'
"Older, powerful men boosted their social status by keeping boys as sexual playthings and the practice was celebrated in song and dance, a military study claimed."
"American social scientists employed to help troops understand the local culture reported that homosexual sex was widespread among the Pashtun ethnic group in southern Afghanistan."
"The study, called 'Pashtun Sexuality', said that as well as willing sex between young men, "boys are appreciated for physical beauty and apprenticed to older men for their sexual initiation".
"Strict separation of men and women, coupled with poverty and the significant expense of getting married, contributed to young men turning to each other for sexual companionship.
"To dismiss the existence of this dynamic out of desire to avoid western discomfort is to risk failing to comprehend an essential social force underlying Pashtun culture," the report said.
"The practice of 'bache bazi' or boy play, is known throughout Afghanistan, but is particularly renowned in the city of Kandahar next to Helmand, where prepubescent boys are widely admired."
"Western soldiers often report feeling unease at the attentions of their Afghan comrades, who are affectionate with each other and sometimes wear make-up."
"British troops have also talked of their disgust at police or militias keeping young boys as hangers on."
"A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: “Afghanistan is a sovereign nation with its own law under which the sexual abuse of children is illegal." I am reminded of two instances where a rather different attitude was taken by those in authority.
The first was the British attitude to the practice of Sati in India. Led by William Wilberforce and William Carey the Hindu practice of burning a widow on her husband's funeral pyre was abolished. When the Indians protested that it was their tradition the British Governor is supposed to have replied, "Yes, well, we have a tradition in England that when people burn widows we put a rope around their necks and hang them from the nearest tree. If you want to continue with your tradition, we shall continue with ours."
The second was the attitude of the Angels on whom a sexual assault was attempted in Sodom. I didn't notice God saying that he must respect their culture and anyway the small boys enjoyed it.
It NATO forces are in Afghanistan to support this culture then the sooner they come home the better.