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Cult Health Sex. 2019 Jun 17:1-14. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2019.1616113. [Epub ahead of print]

Bacha posh in Afghanistan: factors associated with raising a girl as a boy.

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a Gender and Health Research Unit , South African Medical Research Council , Pretoria , South Africa.


This paper examines the factors associated with the cultural phenomenon of bacha posh in Afghanistan (in which girls are dressed and raised as boys), which occurs against a background of rigid gender norms and the male-centric nature of Afghan families. Survey data were collected from 1463 women in two provinces of Afghanistan, Kabul and Nangarhar. The primary outcome is a nominal variable, derived from the question, 'Do you have any girl in your family who has been raised for any time as a boy?' Independent variables comprise women's socio-demographic characteristics, family composition, economic characteristics, patriarchal gender attitudes and perceptions of community patriarchal attitudes. Factors associated with bacha posh include women having fewer sons and more daughters, working in the past three months and having less patriarchal gender attitudes. That bacha posh is often driven by a large number of daughters in the family with a corresponding low number of sons suggests that bacha posh is a response to very contextual features of Afghan life, including the preference for sons. Bacha posh in the family is linked to less patriarchal gender norms and can be a way for girls and women to acquire education, mobility and engagement in income-generating activities.


Afghanistan; bacha posh; gender norms; gender segregation; women’s empowerment

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