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Something has to be done about prostitution in Moldova before it is too late to treat the malice pervading our society.
Prostitution in Morocco? Shocked! Shocked!
The corner of Souad’s small bedroom in Tangier, Morocco, is crowded with piles of clothes, half-eaten bread and a dresser full of makeup and hair supplies. Kayla Dwyer.
Souad, 39, hastily enters her second-floor apartment in Tangier’s old walled neighborhood of souks, mosques and ancient houses. She rips off her long, traditional robe and headscarf and squeezes a green sweatshirt into her jeans, touching red lipstick to her lips, swollen and bruised by a recent beating from a client. Souad has been a prostitute for more than 20 years. In the next room a baby boy—her roommate’s—crawls through the doorway.
“This is the real prostitution in Morocco,” says Souad, walking a pan of yesterday’s couscous over to where the boy’s mother, also a sex worker, is dressing her older child. “Prostitution that feeds these kids, that pays for a place for them to sleep, that buys the next meal.”
Souad, who didn’t want her last name to be used, has been selling sex in Tangier since she left her family because of the shame of her divorce at the age of 15. She still sends them money each month, but they are not aware of how she gets it. In Morocco, a North African and mostly Muslim kingdom, extramarital sex is illegal, and women are supposed to be virgins before they marry. But prostitution is common in Morocco and is transacted openly in cafes, hotels and certain clubs. A Moroccan government study, released last May, counts over 19,000 prostitutes in the cities of Rabat, Agadir, Tangier and Fez. A majority are separated or divorced, and about half have dependent children. One 1 in 4 does not use condoms.
Prostitution has become a major topic throughout Morocco since Nabil Ayouch’s Much Loved , a film highlighting prostitution in Marrakech, was banned by the Ministry of Communications. The movie, which is fiction, focuses on the lives and camaraderie of four Moroccan female prostitutes—featuring vivid party and sex scenes and frisky language. Its May premiere at the Cannes Film Festival prompted a fiery reaction from some Moroccans, who protested outside the parliament headquarters in Rabat, held heated online discussions and even made death threats to the actors. Loubna Abidar, an actress who played one of the prostitutes in the film, fled to France after being attacked in Casablanca last November by what she said was a knife-wielding gang.
The threat of physical violence is a reality for many Moroccan sex workers, including Hanan, 33, a friend of Souad’s in Tangier. Her mouth is swollen from a beating given her by a client after she tried to get him to pay for their sexual intercourse. Prostitutes say their daily struggles—abuse, financial problems, run-ins with police and the fear of AIDS—are not the main focus of the film, Much Loved , with its focus on luxury prostitutes.
Hanan describes her life as a gamble. Orphaned as a child, she says, she escaped abusive brothers and married an abusive husband, who threatened her with a knife and threw her onto the street, pregnant.
“You can imagine the situation—if you talk with someone to get help and he wants your body,” she trails off, tears beginning to spill over her eyeliner onto her black fur-lined sweater. Her curly jet-black hair is pulled back into a bun, showing a round face and full features. During our interview, Souad holds Hanan’s hand and holds back her own tears.
A pile of condoms lies among hair accessories and medicine on the floor near where Souad’s friend, Madiha, sleeps with her two children in a small apartment in Tangier. Kayla Dwyer.
The box on Souad’s dresser contains, among other things, some keys to various clients’ houses. During the interview, she picked up one at a time, named their owners and put them back gently. Kayla Dwyer.
According to a Moroccan government study, there are more than 4,200 prostitutes in Tangier, Morocco’s port city and a hub for expatriates like Paul Bowles and William Burroughs. Souad lives on one of many alleys in the old medina, where children kick around deflated toy balls in the narrow streets and everyone knows one another by name. But most Moroccan men don’t have money here; many are jobless, with unemployment at 10 percent nationally. Souad says she finds her clients at the few remaining discotheques in town. Before leaving her apartment for the night, she checks the contents of the box on her cluttered dresser—keys to clients’ houses.
“You have to be careful of being raped or abused by some clients,” she says. “The streets are so dangerous nowadays. and they abuse us.”
Many Moroccans hold harsh views of women who prostitute themselves. Rachid, 30, a security guard in Rabat, Morocco’s capital, is perhaps typical. Rachid, who refused to give his last name because of the subject of our interview, says he believes blaming poverty is a feeble excuse for women who break holy rules and bring dishonor to their families. “A girl must never forsake her dignity, no matter what the reason is,” he says. “Her honor is her capital, and selling it is an unforgiven crime that is totally against our education and religion.”
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