This paper examines the fictional representation of the ways in which Afghan girls attain autonomy in their post-puberty stage through the tradition of bacha posh despite the traditional constraints to switch back to their gender at birth. This analysis of bacha posh characters in Ukmina Manoori’s I Am a Bacha Posh and Zarghuna Kargar’s Bakhtawara’s Story attempts to demonstrate how the bacha posh tradition develops the potential for transgression in Afghan girls, fostering a resistance to traditional gender roles. In doing so, this paper challenges and rebuts Western feminist views regarding Afghan women, who are stereotyped as incapable, voiceless, and oppressed entities. By drawing upon Andrea Veltman and Mark Piper’s notion of “autonomy,” Marina Oshana’s concept of commitment to feminism and autonomy, as well as the three intersecting elements of Catriona Mackenzie’s concept of relational autonomy, i.e. “self-determination,” “self-governance,” and “self-authorization” (Mackenzie 15), this paper explores the autonomous nature of the bacha posh particularly after puberty in the Afghan context. This study highlights how the bacha posh tradition has proved to be an asset for these otherwise suppressed women by equipping them with confidence, determination, and authority. In doing so, this paper also aims at rebutting the criticism on bacha posh which has focused predominantly on its negative implications. This discussion also concentrates on how these Afghan girls utilize the tradition of bacha posh to improve the conditions of women in Afghanistan. The present research attempts at providing an intervention within the discourses surrounding post-puberty bacha posh identity. It not only explores a rather sensitive and provocative topic but also induces a shift within the perceptions regarding the bacha posh tradition and its ramifications. In doing so, this research serves as a key entry point for readers and counters misperceptions regarding this globally misunderstood Afghan tradition.
"Autonomy, Post-puberty Bacha Posh and Third World Feminism in Selected Afghan Fiction,"
Journal of International Women's Studies: Vol. 25:
1, Article 13.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol25/iss1/13