Bacha Posh – Will Dressing Our Girls As Boys Empower Them?

Patriarchy – a word we all have known for about a zillion years now and clearly dread. Sadly it is hugely prevalent in the world even today, especially in the third world countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan. And the backward thinking is the main reason behind it. There is least to no effort put in to change it. An angle of male and female gender being equal and united is a far off idea. The reason behind such a uniform thought process through out could be lack of education and lack of economic empowerment.

And thus these nations have come out with a way for females to live better lives in this world which is so “male-dominated”. One such way is “Bacha Posh”. Bacha posh literally translates to – girls dressed as boys is as bizarre a concept as the name. Well let’s talk about what it is exactly before passing a judgement on it.

In an underdeveloped country when a couple is incapable of bearing a male child, they are considered a disgrace and are humiliated by their own community. This is done time and again for something they are not even in a position to control. Thus, in order to not be humiliated in the society, the extended family ends up dressing up the girls in the family as boys. This way the girls can also help in providing financial stability to the family by helping the fathers. These girls also end up getting all the “liberties” a boy child would have been entitled to. But, as they say ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ these girls are also expected to protect their younger siblings from unwanted male attention and escort them safely to school or the “madrasa”.

The bad part about being a victim of bacha posh is that these girls are not given a chance to explore their sexuality as they are dressed and made to behave like boys since the age of four or five. Hence, it is always tough for them to differentiate between who they are and what they are expected to be. However, when they attain puberty or an appropriate age for marriage, they are expected to revert back to being girls.

There are two situations that occur in case of Bacha Posh :

1) girls voluntarily take up being a Bacha Posh and refuse to go back to being girls in the sense of dressing.

2) girls are forced to be a Bacha Posh and revert to their normal roles as girls at the earliest possible.

Normally the eldest girl child is expected to be the first ones to take up the role while they can revert back once the second eldest grows up and takes charge. Sometimes even all of them are dressed up as males. These girls are only required to wear hijab when in classroom with the other girls, but in public wearing a burqa or hijab is not  compulsory.

A lot has been said about a bacha posh but what does a concept like this reflect is the succumbing to norms of what is considered to be the acceptable working and thus demanded by the society.

“I am not free while any woman is un-free even if her are shackles are very different from my own”~ Audre Lodre.

This concept is progressive and regressive at various levels. But this concept has been into force for nearly a century, now. Sadly the third world countries are not the only ones who have been practising it.

Dona Maria, a Brazilian, disguised herself as Balthazar during her stay in India for nearly 14 years. She was also a part of the Portuguese army for years (disguised as a man). The first world countries have progressed in these areas. However, the third world countries have not even tried to improve.

This concept could be debated as progressive sighting  a woman at least being able to exercise some freedom which she would not have had  if she continued being a girl. So yes, she can finally outgrow herself and be as free as her male counterpart. Yes, she can be a volcano. Maybe, subconsciously.

But why is it that to exercise freedom a woman has to take up the garb of a man? Aren’t we all the same? Why is the “testosterone” always has an upper hand to the “estrogen”? When the creator himself did not distinguish between Adam and Eve, who are we to do so? Are we really going to let these shackles tie us?.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”- Maya Angelou

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