In a country where looking at a woman above her feet is a sin, social scientists have uncovered a disturbing cultural norm: public pedophilia.
As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, it’s a socially sanctioned tradition for Afghan men from the southern Pashtun region to take young boys—roughly 9 to 15 years old—as lovers.
“Having a boy has become a custom for us,” said Enayatullah, a 42-year-old Afghani man to a Reuters reporter. “Whoever wants to show off should have a boy.”
The tradition even goes so far as to allow what amounts to little boy orgies in which “young boys dress up as girls, wearing makeup and bells on their feet, and dance for a dozen or more leering middle-aged men who throw money at them and then take them home.”
What accounts for this behavior? As one young Afghan man explains, the restrictions on women make it near impossible to interact with them. “How can you fall in love if you can’t see her face?” 29-year-old Mohammed Daud said. “We can see the boys, so we can tell which are beautiful.”