Human beings, not slaves: breaking the taboo around human trafficking in Tunisia

27 July 2017

For several months, from the Kef to Sfax, hundreds of people have been mobilising to free Manel, Kayta, Morjena, and Hamma. These four mannequins symbolise the victims of human trafficking, a widespread though little-known phenomenon in Tunisia. ASF and its partners have decided to confront this taboo, in order to increase awareness and change behaviour.

Human trafficking is the third most lucrative form of organised crime worldwide. For the victims, Tunisia could be their country of origin or their destination country or they may be in transit. Children and illegal migrants are particularly vulnerable to forced labour, domestic exploitation, and prostitution. A year ago, a law was adopted that forbids and severely punishes trafficking; a body was also set up in early 2017 to combat trafficking. However, there is a strong social taboo surrounding the issue. People are badly informed on the subject and on their rights and responsibilities, victims are reluctant to come forward as witnesses, and trafficking practices persist.

For several months, ASF and its partners have been working to change attitudes: “Using shop-window mannequins (photo), we confront people in Tunisia with the experiences and the suffering of victims of trafficking,” says Nadia Ben Halim, ASF Project Coordinator. Presented with Manel (age 13, domestic slave), Morjena (age 29, forced into prostitution), or Hamma (age 6, flower-seller), passers-by and spectators at the Hammamet festival are faced with a choice: “Free me” or “Buy me”. They then receive a photo accompanied by a message commenting on the choice they have made.

© ASF

We are making people aware of the realities of trafficking in Tunisia today,” explains Nadia Ben Halim. “We also explain the sentences that can be imposed on people found guilty of trafficking in all its forms, which can include up to ten years’ imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 dinars (about 18,000). We encourage people who have witnessed cases of trafficking to report them to the relevant authorities. In this way, we hope to raise awareness and change behaviour within Tunisian society.

The awareness-raising campaign includes an interactive installation, radio and TV ads, and a Facebook application. It has already had a big impact in the country. To date, the video has been viewed 100,000 times and shared more than 600 times on social media. The campaign is part of a two-year joint project by Avocats Sans Frontières, the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, and NOVACT, which is supported by the European Union. The project aims to combat human trafficking in Tunisia through advocacy and awareness-raising activities, as well as by building the capacities of the actors involved.

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#30 July, Word Day against Trafficking in Persons

Coverpicture © Afkart voor ASF

Published in Economic, social and cultural rights | Tunisia | News

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