Castigating Sexual Abuse in Other Cultures, Ignoring it at Home
I recently watched an RT (Russia Today) TV report on Bacha Bazi, the dancing boys of Central Asia. In this case, the focus was on the phenomenon in Afghanistan. Essentially, poor young boys are recruited as prostitutes for wealthy and influential men. Made illegal under the Taliban, the Bacha Bazi culture is still against the law but goes unprosecuted. This report, and others like it, attributes the practice to Islam and its restricted access of men to women. In fact, Bacha Bazi pre-dates Islam. The custom was probably practiced when Alexander the Great invaded the country circa 300 B.C.
But, it’s not surprising to see a documentary critical of anything gay on Russian TV, especially since anti-LGBTQ laws were passed under President Vladimir Putin and more recent reports of concentration camps for gays in Chechnya, a republic in the Russian Federation. Interestingly, the American press has been equally critical of Bacha Bazi but more vehemently as another indictment of Islam.
Of course, the moral outrage is warranted. Still, it seems odd to direct the rage towards a foreign culture, an Islamic one at that, when identical crimes and abuses take place in enlightened Western nations as well as in our own country.
In mid-July, news of a decades-long sex and physical abuse scandal involving nearly 600 Catholic choirboys in Regensburg, Germany, received only brief coverage. It’s also odd that precious little press has been dedicated to the recent release from prison of former U.S. Speaker of the House, Republican Dennis Hastert. His “Bacha Bazi” boys were members of the high school wrestling team he coached. But his incarceration was not for sexual abuse but rather for breaking banking laws resulting from paying $3.5 million in hush money to his victims. The statute of limitations had already run out on his other crimes of child molesting. During his trial in 2016, Hastert’s political colleagues, including former Republican House Whip Tom DeLay, wrote laudatory letters attesting to the former speaker’s character, praising his faith and trustworthiness, among his many virtues.
In other news, suburban Cincinnati school board member Tim Nolan, a former Kentucky judge and zealot for Donald Trump and the tea party has been indicted on 11 counts of trafficking of a minor, rape, prostitution and inducing a minor to have sex. A Tennessee Republican Party chairman got busted for soliciting sex in a public bathroom. And, speaking of Tennessee, girls as young as 10 years old have been married off there (with parental consent, of course) as recently as 2001.
With all the issues of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, straight, gay or otherwise, we might focus on local problems rather than divert attention to another culture we barely understand.
To be fair, Milwaukee has recently launched its “Operation Dear John” to arrest clients of prostitutes. Still, that does nothing to address the myriad causes of the problem, like poverty and poor education. Or, as cited in a New York Times piece from September 2015, “non-intervention…also reflects a reluctance to impose cultural values in a country where pederasty is rife, particularly among powerful men, for whom being surrounded by young teenagers can be a mark of social status.” Oh wait, that was about Afghanistan.