Home > Uncategorized > Facing Social Pressures, Families Disguise Girls as Boys in Afghanistan–NY Times

Facing Social Pressures, Families Disguise Girls as Boys in Afghanistan–NY Times

Fascinating and disturbing portrait of the terrible position women face in Afghanistan. “When gender stereotypes run amok.” Many Afghan families that have only daughters will dress up one–or even eventually all–of their girls as boys until they hit puberty.

Afghan families have many reasons for pretending their girls are boys, including economic need, social pressure to have sons, and in some cases, a superstition that doing so can lead to the birth of a real boy. Lacking a son, the parents decide to make one up, usually by cutting the hair of a daughter and dressing her in typical Afghan men’s clothing. There are no specific legal or religious proscriptions against the practice. In most cases, a return to womanhood takes place when the child enters puberty. The parents almost always make that decision.


When Zahra, 15, opens the door to the family’s second-floor apartment in an upscale neighborhood of Kabul, she is dressed in a black suit with boxy shoulders and wide-legged pants. Her face has soft features, but she does not smile, or look down, as most Afghan girls do.

She said she had been dressing and acting like a boy for as long as she could remember. If it were up to her, she would never go back. “Nothing in me feels like a girl,” she said with a shrug.

Her mother, Laila, said she had tried to suggest a change toward a more feminine look several times, but Zahra has refused. “For always, I want to be a boy and a boy and a boy,” she said with emphasis.

Gotta read the whole thing. Maybe I’ll have a football player after all…

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