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NYT: Afghan Boys Are Prized, So Girls Live the Part

Author: Jenny Nordberg
September 20, 2010


Through several intimate portraits, Jenny Nordberg of the New York Times examines the unique social pressures that Afghan families face to rear male children, and the associated practice of disguising daughters as sons to fill a cultural void.

KABUL, Afghanistan — Six-year-old Mehran Rafaat is like many girls her age. She likes to be the center of attention. She is often frustrated when things do not go her way. Like her three older sisters, she is eager to discover the world outside the family's apartment in their middle-class neighborhood of Kabul.

But when their mother, Azita Rafaat, a member of Parliament, dresses the children for school in the morning, there is one important difference. Mehran's sisters put on black dresses and head scarves, tied tightly over their ponytails. For Mehran, it's green pants, a white shirt and a necktie, then a pat from her mother over her spiky, short black hair. After that, her daughter is out the door — as an Afghan boy.

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