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Novel explores Afghanistan's gender-bending tradition
Novel explores Afghanistan's gender-bending tradition

To Western eyes, the contradiction is mind-boggling. In Afghanistan, a society in which women's lives were so constricted under the Taliban that they couldn't even walk unescorted down the street, some young girls enjoyed unprecedented freedom by posing as boys. The tradition of bacha posh exists to this day. These girls wear male clothes, adopt boys' names, roughhouse with boys and enjoy privileges accorded to boys. What's more, they do it at the behest of their families and with the tacit consent of the entire community — at least until they reach puberty, when they're expected to change back. That gender-bending, cross-dressing tradition is at the...