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The Complex Homophobia of the Taliban

Homosexuality is generally frowned upon and illegal in Afghan and Pakistani societies. The Taliban, a radical Islamist movement in the region, has condemned homosexuality and has a history of persecuting its practice by locking up, whipping, stoning, and killing.

How the organization treats the queer community under its control is a story of unimaginable horror. Although the previous Afghan civil governments have kept homosexuality criminalized, the arrival of the Taliban regime in the 1990s and after America's exit from Afghanistan in 2020 meant an active hunt and subsequent punishment of those alleged to be homo, sexual, or transgender. Since being gay is also illegal in neighboring countries, these individuals have no safe place to seek refuge.

The Taliban Ministry of Vice and Virtue issued a manual outlining the only two possible punishments for homosexuality: "either stoning or he must stand behind a wall that will fall down on him." The Taliban not only carry out their punishments for homosexuals in broad daylight but also make a spectacle out of it to strike fear in the general public. Several queer and transgender Individuals in Afghanistan have been subjected to public flogging, stoning, and execution- recently, images of men perched on tree branches to peep a view into these public floggings and executions surfaced on social media.

The Taliban also have a strict code of conduct for its own members forbidding homosexuality. despite the official zero-tolerance policy, homosexual sex, if not homoeroticism, exists in the shadows. The solid religious and gender-segregated presence in lower socio-economic areas coexist with the ancient culture of "bacha-bazi" or "bacha-kunnni," which refers to pederasty or, in simple modern terms, the sexual abuse of - children.

A significant part of this is attributable to the severe sexual repression within these spaces and the desire to exert one's power and dominate the other. Furthermore, many members of the Taliban, particularly those recruited from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and those barely making ends meet, may find that engaging in homosexual sex is more economically viable. It is challenging to maintain a family unit while at the same time devoting one's life to the work of the organization's cause. If kept secret and in close ranks, having a homosexual affair behind closed doors is less dangerous and more convenient. Such is the complexity of the Taliban's relationship with homo, sexuality, and homophobia.

The Taliban's treatment of homosexuals and transgender individuals in Afghanistan, especially those not economically powerful or socially influential, demonstrates their hypocritical and rigid interpretation of the Sharia law. In addition, the "queer" community in Afghanistan at large is subject to large-scale discrimination and is denied fundamental rights, like the right to live.

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