With the recent takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, the question of womens rights and violations in the country has once again emerged as an issue of concern. The Taliban has promised to ensure the rights of Afghan women under Islamic law, but the fact remains that the Talibans history with womens rights cannot be trusted. And now, reports suggest that one of the traditions that give Afghan girls an opportunity to experience the same rights and freedoms as boys may be threatened by the Taliban too.Bacha Posh, literally meaning girl dressed as a boy in Dari as well as Persian, is an age-old tradition followed across Afghanistan, even across tribal divides. According to this tradition, a girl, usually from a family without any male child, is designated a boy and brought up as such until she reaches puberty. This designation gives the girls a chance to enjoy all the freedoms and responsibilities that boys do, like access to education, sports, and even the right to step outside the home without a male guardian. In fact, Bacha Poshes may also enjoy the right to accompany other women and girls of the family in public, instead of a male guardian.In a recent interview with CNN, Jenny Nordberg, the author of The Underground Girls of Kabul, revealed that this tradition is rooted in inequality, as it is followed in families where a male child isnt born. Sons are favoured in Afghan culture for several patriarchal reasons, ranging from inheritance and dowry prospects to earning rights and capacity. Women who birth only men are often socially derided, and labelled as dokhtar zai or she who only breeds daughters. The tradition of Bacha Posh gave such families the opportunity to escape derision and social ostracism.However, Nordberg points out that for the girls who get the opportunity to be Bacha Poshes, the tradition gives a taste of freedom and generates confidence. These girls sport short hair, wear pants and mens clothing, and enjoy a whole range of rights. She doesnt need to be kept indoors. She could play sports. She could escort her mother or do errands. Shell see more of the world outside the house, essentially. And in areas where education is only afforded to boys, she could get an education and could also safely get to school, if its dangerous for a girl to travel or to walk to school, Nordberg revealed in the interview.She also explains that the practice is regarded favourable by most Afghans, primarily because even if it is well known that you have a Bacha Posh, it is considered a better option than having just girls. The downside of the tradition is that once the Bacha Poshes reach puberty, they are expected to revert to being women. The rights they previously enjoyed are taken away, and they are expected to be shy, covered up, dutiful, and quiet. They are also married away as per tradition, and expected to bear male heirsand so the vicious cycle continues.A recent report by The Wire revealed that this transition from Bacha Posh to a woman is obviously traumatic. Nordbergs book and plenty of other reports suggest the same, finally reaching the conclusion that if Afghan women had better rights to begin with, they would not have to go through the angst and disorientation at the end of their run as a Bacha Posh. If girls had rights, there would be no need to pretend to be the more privileged gender. This is a society where boys and men have almost all the rights. In an extremely segregated society, there will always be those who try to get over to the other side, Nordberg said.However, with the Taliban now in power, the tradition and the few rights that these girls do enjoy may be threatened. Nordberg believes that the tradition of Bacha Posh isnt approved by the Taliban, as it makes a mockery of the Taliban and their view on women. There will be a greater need to hide, a greater need to disguise yourself if you want to do certain things, she said. But it will also be more dangerous to do it, because I believe the Taliban do not approve of this. It was always risky and it will be more dangerous under a harsher regime.*The image used for this article is credited to Jenny Nordberg and Adam Ferguson.