This film contains descriptions of a sexual nature and of physical violence.
Names have been changed to protect identities.
My friends who left before me are now in the streets.
Or they are in prison, some of them are dead.
Each one of them met her own destiny.
It would be difficult for our families to take us back,
so we choose the street.
For decades Tunisia has been home
to a two-tier system of sex work…
Illegal prostitution and
legal, state-regulated, brothels
When I turn 40, I will be allowed
to open and manage a brothel.
The law states that women
can open brothels upon turning 40.
When I opened the brothel, the local authority in
El Gorjani sent me women.
They called me and asked how many rooms I had.
I told them I had four rooms
so they sent me four women.
Religious conservatives and women’s right’s activists…
are calling for an end to legal brothels
There used to be a lot of work here.
There were many women, about 120.
There were 35 or 60 “Patrounas”
who were our supervisors.
Now, they started firing women,
for the simplest mistake they do
and they kick them out to the street.
There is no work anymore.
Before, we used to have a job, we used to do fine.
We were fine – raising our children, paying for the rent.
We made a living out of this work but not anymore.
The crackdown began just after the revolution
Attacks by extremists forced brothels to close down
The brothel closed in 2011.
Terrorists attacked us during the revolution.
They beat us, pulled our hair and drew their guns on us.
They dragged us out of Gafsa brothel.
I was terrified.
I was hospitalised
and stayed in a coma for a month.
‘Closed by court order’
I was 17 years old when I first went.
I went with boys from my neighbourhood,
they were older than me.
When I entered, I did not expect what I saw. It was like walking into another world.
I did not expect that such a thing existed in Tunis.
A woman who works in a brothel is shamed.
She is rejected by society.
Her whole world revolves around the brothel
and when she leaves, she is nothing.
Things are different for the client.
Society accepts and considers that he has the right to be in the brothel.
he has the right to be in the brothel.
Now only two legal brothel zones remain open
We were protected in the brothels.
We had a doctor, condoms and a supervisor.
Things are not like that anymore.
Now, when a man comes I feel scared because
I don’t have someone to protect me or stand by me.
I’m always afraid.
Now, I take my money before he sleeps with me.
Once a client came in, after he did his thing
he robbed me, took my money,
choked me and left me in bruises.
And as you see my nose is broken.
Since then, I don’t bring people anymore.
Now at night I beg on the street.
Unemployment rates for women in Tunisia are almost double that of men.
Source: National Institute of Statistics
One cannot find anything here, no salary, no loan.
If I ask for a loan, they would ask what my job is
or if I have a salary to pay back from.
And I don’t have a salary.
They know us!
‘She used to work in that place, don’t give her a job.’
Even if they don’t know you; in one or two days
someone will say
that this woman was working in a brothel.
The boss would say, ‘sorry I cannot hire you’
I brought someone else to work in your place.
Stigma and discrimination makes sex workers in Tunisia more vulnerable to violence and abuse.
When I worked at a brothel in Tunis, one of my colleagues was [found] dead and thrown [away].
No one knew her whereabouts.
There were many women who were killed. We would only see blood leaking out of the room.
We are colleagues. When I see my friend or colleague killed, I cannot work.
I used to shut my door and cry.
The supervisor would ask me,
‘why have you closed your room?’
‘So what if your friend died!
Open the room and get back to work.’
‘Even if your friend died! She’s dead, it’s over.’
We have to put our heads down
because as long as we belong to that place,
we don’t have any rights in society.
Where should we go?
We have to shut our mouths and that’s it.
Look at us when the brothel is closed.
We are thrown in the street.
We are rejected by society.