Thursday, November 13, 2014
The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan by Jenny Nordberg
In Afghanistan, the worst place in the world to be a female, many girls are raised as boys until puberty in a practice where they are called "bacha posh" which literally means "dressed like a boy". In Afghanistan, which has a repressive, patriarchal society, women are treated like servants, animals, property that has no rights. Due to the need for sons and the fact that females are unable to work, many families designate a daughter to be raised as a son, a bacha posh, and this practice is far more common that most people realize.
Several characters are followed in this book including: Azita, a woman parliamentarian, which is an anomaly, and her daughter Mehran, whom she has chosen to be a bocha posh for her family because she has no sons. We also read about Zahra, a teenager, who, having been raised as a bacha posh, refuses to turn back into a girl; and Shukria, a woman who had been raised as a boy and then was changed back to a girl and was married off and now has children of her own. The author explains the many reasons that families may designate a daughter to be a bacha posh, describes the extremely dysfunctional attitudes within the Afghan society and the struggles of many girls and women and their fathers to overcome these views and make changes in Afghanistan. She also explains why foreign aid is not helping the situation.
Lastly, the author explores the issue of what gender is and describes how, throughout history, around the world, for various reasons, often in times of war, females have chosen to or have had to present themselves as males.
I received this book free to review from Netgalley and I highly recommend it.