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Tunisia's sex workers want their brothels back

The crackdown on legal brothels in Tunisia puts its sex workers at risk of further harm.
A Tunisian prostitute works in a brothel in the district of Abdallah Guech in Tunis on Feb. 19, 2011.

SFAX, Tunisia — Sirine stared over the table, the look in her eyes as convincing as her words. "I have no plans for the future but suicide," she said. "Without the brothel, there's nothing else."

Until last year, Sirine, like others, was employed as a sex worker in partnership with Tunisia's state. That is, while Sirine and her employer were responsible for their day-to-day dealings, the state and the police controlled prices, provided protection for the house and ensured a minimum of health care was provided. Now she finds herself out on the street and forced to run the gauntlet of predatory police and criminals as she practices the only trade she's ever known.

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