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The majestic blue-tiled Hazrat e-Ali mosque complex in the centre of Mazar e-Sharif serves as a recreational space as well as a place of worship for many of the city's residents. But Ahmad Javed, not his real name , lounging on a chair near the public toilets, was there for business.
The year-old was waiting for customers looking for sex at the shrine, revered as the burial place of Ali, the son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad. Javed said that many of his sex worker friends also came to the mosque complex to find customers. It had become a well-known marketplace for such services, he continued, adding, "I'm happy that the police don't interfere in our business… as long as we don't have any problems with our customers. Human rights activists say there is a flourishing trade in sex with young boys in the northern province of Balkh.
As well as male prostitution, there remains the time-honoured practice, deplored by human rights defenders and clerics, of "bacha bazi" or boy play.
Boys kept by powerful older men are made to dance at special parties, and often sexually abused afterwards. Also known as "bacha bereesh" - literally, "beardless boys", they are under 18, with 14 the preferred age. Local strongmen often keep boys for sex, even competing with each other over who had the most handsome youths or the most talented dancers. He noted that the AIHRC had carried out a major national investigation into the issue in , speaking to nearly 2, people across 14 provinces of the country.
The research revealed that poverty was a key factor in the spread of such abuse, as well as the lack of law enforcement and the fact that powerful people were able to act with impunity.