Age of Consent


On February 10, 2013, the Human Rights Watch condemned Afghan policy over the arrest of a 13-year-old boy charged with having sex with two adult men. The Afghan law prohibits “pederasty,” which is sex between a boy and a man, but also accused the boy of “moral crimes,” which includes sexual relations outside of marriage, leading to pending mounting punishments. 

In the United States, the age of consent is set by states to be somewhere from 16-18, which means, if an individual over that age engages in sexual activity with someone under than that age, they are accused of rape and the child is not held liable. In Afghanistan, where there is no age of consent, the 13-year-old boy is being tried and punished as well as the adults in the incident.

Should the child should be held liable for his actions, or is he innocent under the veil of age? If he is guilty of this crime, what is the proper punishment (if any) to deal with this case? Should this boy be tried for multiple infractions with compounding sentences, or should he be let of a little easier for being so young?

I think the reason that Afghanistan is holding firm to its almost antiquated system of law is almost completely due to the importance of keeping to their Islam faith. Regardless of the fact that they are being constantly attacked for some of their practices, keeping to their traditional beliefs allows them to justify their actions in their own minds. It is important to note that for the Afghan government, there might be no doubt that their methods of law and punishment are absolute, and there might be no ethical issue with it.

After additional research, it has become more apparent that there is a growing culture in  Afghanistan known as “bacha bazi,” or “boy play,” in which young boys dress up as women and dance for grown men. While this practice is outlawed under Afghan laws, there have been known circumstances of dominant generals indulging in this act.  

While I do feel that the adults in the situation should be held wholly responsible for their actions, I personally believe that a degree of punishment for the child is a wise choice only if it can be proven that the act was consensual (which is almost impossible in my opinion.)  In terms of a power relationship, a young boy is completely helpless when it comes to avoiding the advances of a grown man, and although not explicitly stated, a boy could feel that his life is threatened should he say no to any advances.

Interestingly enough, this type of punishment doesn’t seem to be unusual. In a culture where women must cover their bodies in order to prevent men from temptation, I am not at all surprised that the government would seek to mercilessly punish all individuals involved in this sexcapade. It seems that in the past the Afghan people have been complacent to let many injustices be done unto them under the veil of religion, but I think with the increased attention being shown to them from worldly audiences, this trend may soon shift in favor of the people.

A good reactive measure to take for cases like this would be to offer services to boys who have undergone this type of treatment by older males. Children should be offered support groups or therapy to ensure the safety of their mental conditions after these occurrences. In respect to the government, it is time to rethink the policies that inflict injustices upon these children that are often so young, they cannot even prevent or defend themselves due to their sheer bodily inferiorities. In respects to children, in-depth reviews should be done over these cases to fully understand the nature of the crime, and where punishment lies. 


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