For centuries, Afghan men have taken boys, roughly 9 to 15 years old, as lovers. Some research suggests that half the Pashtun tribal members in Kandahar and other southern towns are bacha baz, the term for an older man with a boy lover. Literally it means "boy player." The men like to boast about it.
"Having a boy has become a custom for us," Enayatullah, a 42-year-old in Baghlan province, told a Reuters reporter. "Whoever wants to show off should have a boy."
Baghlan province is in the northeast, but Afghans say pedophilia is most prevalent among Pashtun men in the south. The Pashtun are Afghanistan's most important tribe. For centuries, the nation's leaders have been Pashtun.
Cardinelli's study explains that this is the culture, but she is not a cultural relativist:
"There's no issue more horrifying and more deserving of our attention than this," Cardinalli said. "I'm continually haunted by what I saw."
The article says the source of the problem is Islamic law, because men are forbidden to see women and told that women are unclean:
Sociologists and anthropologists say the problem results from perverse interpretation of Islamic law. Women are simply unapproachable. Afghan men cannot talk to an unrelated woman until after proposing marriage. Before then, they can't even look at a woman, except perhaps her feet. Otherwise she is covered, head to ankle.
Fundamentalist imams, exaggerating a biblical passage on menstruation, teach that women are "unclean" and therefore distasteful. One married man even asked Cardinalli's team "how his wife could become pregnant," her report said. When that was explained, he "reacted with disgust" and asked, "How could one feel desire to be with a woman, who God has made unclean?"