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All rights reserved. Fourteen-year-old Ali was raised as a boy in a practice known in Afghanistan as bacha posh. Ali's sisters stand behind her in the room they share. Throughout history, women have disguised themselves as men to navigate entrenched social roles.
They have dressed as men to fight wars , join religious orders, or prosper professionally. In Afghanistan, some families raise their daughters as sons to provide them with a better life. Daughters are often considered as a burden, while a son will earn money, carry on the family legacy and stay home to care for their aging parents. She had read The Underground Girls of Kabul , a book by journalist Jenny Nordberg about the secretive practice of dressing girls as boys. Through a local translator, she met a family in which two of six daughters were being raised as boys.
One day after Setareh was born—the third girl in a row—her parents decided to raise her as Setar, a boy. Two years later, Ali was born and she too was raised as a boy. When their first and only brother was born next, both continued life as boys. Her sister Ali, 14, has a box of love letters written by female admirers. At home, neither get up to help when their sisters and mother make meals and tea.
Setar and her girlfriend Arezou hang out in the living room. But as they get older and puberty reveals their biological gender, life becomes more difficult—and dangerous. The family has moved the family multiple times to avoid the harassment.
Both parents now want them to start dressing and behaving like girls, but neither Ali nor Setar want to. A single mom she met raised her two young daughters as boys to protect the family. The case workers find them particularly challenging, Nasim says. Gendered cultural restrictions are difficult to adopt later in life: they must learn how to live under a burqa, cook for their families, and lower their gaze among strangers. Denying the religious and Islamic rights of a girl is, in fact, an insult to the sex of a girl.