Sex tourism in the Maghreb or the persistence of underdevelopment...

Khémais By: Khemais Khayati

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Thirty years ago, a young Tunisian filmmaker made a black-and-white short film with the revealing title: “Forbidden Thresholds” – “al-Atabat al-Mamnu3a” – by Ridha Behi…

This film was about the first effects of mass tourism. At that time, Tunisia, just like Morocco, focused its development on the desires of Western European citizens who wanted to pay a low price for a change of scenery… One of these citizens, a young girl with no knowledge of the host country’s culture, entered the minaret of the Great Mosque of Kairouan, the fourth holiest city for Sunni Muslims…

Unfortunately, this girl was followed on the run by a postcards seller who could not stand his sexual deprivation in front of “this exposed flesh”. And right there, in the minaret, he attempted to rape her; a crime for which he was sentenced to death…

The film director illustrated this story with more general terms in his feature film “Sun of the Hyenas” (1976) – “Shams al-Dhiba3” -, the filming of which was banned in Tunisia, to be conducted in Morocco instead…

Another Tunisian filmmaker, Nouri Bouzid, tackled the issue of sex tourism in his film “Bezness” (Baznâs) (1992), but from a different angle compared to Behi’s film. The movie was about the journey of a gigolo who was ready to sell his body to both male and female tourists…

The vision of a young man attracted to the charms of a female tourist, and that of a young man ready to sell himself to male and female tourists, are two complementary visions…

It’s not the Maghreb’s “underdevelopment” alone that fuels sex tourism in Tunisia and Morocco, there is also the need for the Other… Both partners in this practice are equally responsible, with the only difference being that for one side, it’s a solution to social misery; and for the other, it’s a palliative for sexual misery…

For both sides, it’s a matter of misery with different degrees…

This situation leads to creating a market of sentiments… Several cases were exposed in Morocco and Tunisia, where the authorities stopped a sex trade…

If in Morocco, the enclave of Ceuta and Melilla or the shores of Spain can be a haven for this sex market, besides what Marrakech has to offer; Hammamet and even Sousse in Tunisia were repeatedly the scenes where old European tourists (men and women) were murdered by young Tunisians, to whom the promise of being rescued from social deprivation was not honored, either because of emotional exhaustion or for being replaced by another elected immigrant.

In all cases, even if sex tourism is not as obvious in the Maghreb as it is in some Asian countries, many European pensioners find the region to be a haven to satisfy their needs, taking advantage of Europe’s mirage effect, the exchange rate of the Euro into Moroccan Dirhams or Tunisian Dinars, in addition to the myth of the sexual vigor of the southern Mediterranean countries…

Sex tourism is only a manifestation of the development gap that separates the two shores of the Mediterranean…

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Anonymous About over 3 years ago

Of the four panelists, I chose to respond to K. Khayati, whom I found to be the most practical writer who’s far from using the wooden language, the useless mediaeval sermons, and the socio-economic jargon. Nevertheless, I noticed an understandable gap in his analysis: the role of the dictatorship in the spread of prostitution in the Maghreb. There is no doubt that it’s an economic problem that led to this phenomenon: poverty and unemployment. In tourist countries like Morocco and Tunisia, the gap between the rich who are close to the regime and ordinary citizens is often staggering, both in terms of wealth and influence. The privileged have no difficulty in settling their affairs through scheming, or intimidating public services. As for the poor, they must pay bribes, and if they cannot afford them, they should pay them in nature to be able to get their rights. All that has, of course, nothing to do with tourism that I will talk about now. I remember what Bourguiba, the pioneer of the tourism industry in Tunisia, said in one of his speeches. Speaking of foreign tourists, he threatened to punish the Tunisians who fail to show courtesy to those tourists since, according to him, “tourists are currency”. This materialist thinking in building a new society in a newly independent country worsened during his reign, and is worsening even more with the putschist regime currently in power. Money has become a value that has replaced respect for human beings, and only those who have it count, regardless of the means they used to get it. In this context, a new generation of parasites has emerged, considering tourists a prey to exploit.

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Anonymous About over 3 years ago

Ridha Behi… I remember the “Sun of the Hyenas” that I watched in Marly, in one of the FFCC’s internships, of Sedjnane (was it Behi’s??)… What to say about sexual tourism? It’s a wound… One that promotes both capitalism and globalization…of course. It is far from postcards’ tourism, and videos that flatter the economic reality and the tricks of politics…

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