Tunisia isn‘t one of the worst in the region for harassment of foreign women, but that doesn‘t mean that it doesn‘t have serious problems with it. Partly due to the fact that Tunisian men don‘t associate all that much with women before they get married, and partly due to western pornography, a lot of Tunisian men have the idea that Western women will do just about anything if someone asks them. So they ask. Tunisian men are particularly prone to asking young foreign women to kiss them and seem honestly confused when they don‘t.
Tunisian men are very polite, knowing how much they depend on tourism and how little the country is getting since the Bardo attack. However, dressing conservatively (cover shoulders to knees and everything in between; long shirt covering your butt, shirt not too tight) helps minimize comments in any Muslim country. If you feel you’re getting lots of attention, pop a scarf over your hair and you’ll be treated more like a local Muslim woman, ie ignored or respected.
It‘s much easier for women to travel by themselves here, with the levels of harrassment much less than other neraby countries. Still, they should take basic precautions such as sitting in the back of taxis, sitting next to other women on buses and avoiding the cheap and dodgy hotels.
If you encounter unwanted attention, particularly of the physical kind, a good phrase to remember is ‘Harem alek‘. That‘s Arabic for ‘shame on you‘ and tends to work quite well.
If you show that you’re familiar with Muslim culture and etiquette it can help tone down negative interactions. For example, if a shopkeeper touches your elbow to try to get you to shop in his store, feign deep offence that a man who is not a family member has touched you. Calling for the assistance of local women can also help in difficult situations.
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