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Tunis | Jerba
Tozeur | Tabarka

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9. Sex and Relations

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Sex and Relations

From Sousse, Tunisia

The town beach of Sousse is just like other big town beaches a popular place for young Tunisians to flirt.

From Hammam Lif, Tunisia

The few hours around sunset is even more popular for flirting. Like here on the beach promenade in Hammam Lif.

From Sousse, Tunisia

The other side of love, the "quartier" of Sousse, the walled area, with only one entrance, with streets of tiny, tiny brothels.

Lifestyles in Tunisia are far more modern than most visitors expect, especially in the larger cities. Young men and women meet freely, and pre-marital relations are far from uncommon. This rests both on the traditional society values, where women played an important role in society and was predominantly responsible for finding a life partner by her own, and on the politics of the country which emphasize the freedom of women.
If you look closely, you will notice that the freedom of both sexes is expressed in a far more direct fashion than in many Western societies. Put on your goggles and notice what happens out in the waves on the most popular beaches. Under the surface!
Many female travellers to Tunisia complain about not having been left alone by men, always getting attention and suggestions thrown after them. Note that this is simply the Tunisian way of life, that a bit of friendliness and clear messages will help a lot. Nobody will await you in dark alleys to violate you. Also note that Western men may experience something of the same from Tunisian women. Tunisia is the only place where I have experienced women groping me in crowds!
Tunisian women are usually not condemned if having a relationship with Western men, but modesty is in this case important, and if there has been any sort of openness marriage is considered as the only honorable outcome. Note that according to Tunisian law, a Tunisian Muslim woman can only marry another Muslim, so conversion to Islam will be the only option for a non-Muslim man falling in love in Tunisia.
Relations between Western women and Tunisian men is still the most common, but unfortunately many of these relations are disgusting old woman-young man in return for a visa and a life in the West unions. Quite a high number of the older women (or unsuccessful women in their home country) seem to believe that true love occurs, that finally they have been appreciated. Note that divorce rates for this type of marriage is between extremely high and 100%, and that for a poor young man there is little dishonour in lying to an older woman in return for achieving a better life. All around Tunisia there are young women waiting for their sweethearts to get the divorce through, so that they can be reunited in Europe or somewhere else.
My impression is that love marriage between a Tunisian man and Western women are limited to the ones where he has some education at least and the Western women is of about the same age.
Short time relations are far from uncommon in tourist resorts, almost always between Tunisian men and foreign women. Contact is easily made, intentions are direct. Gifts are expected in return for a nice time, but note that many hotels have strict regulations on bringing Tunisians, be it men or women, to the hotel room. Bribing the hotel staff seems to be unavoidable. Note that there are reports of high percentage of HIV-infected among these men.
Female prostitution is common in larger cities, and almost non-existing in smaller places. The system is that a secluded street is sided with tiny "shops" of women waiting in the door for a client. Ages are usually 30 and upwards, prices from 10TD and upwards. The women are regularly controlled by doctors, and the areas protected by police.
Homosexuality exists in Tunisia like anywhere else, and gays in Tunisia fare a much better situation than in many other Muslim countries. But there is still a long way to go before they get European-style rights. I remember back in 1994, in Tunis, that I was invited into this bar on the main street. It turned out to be a gay joint, with even a couple of transvestites in the back corners. Since the people there were friendly and not pushy (I'm not gay), I returned another night just to discover that the place had been cleared by the police.
Gay Western travellers should therefore note that Tunisia is a place to act with precaution. Do not be forward, and be careful about whom you trust.

By Tore Kjeilen