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Tunisia: stolen kiss costs 20-yr-olds jail time

Reported to police by girl's brother

09 January, 19:00

    (ANSAmed) - TUNIS, JANUARY 9 - The two are both twenty year olds, but nothing else is known about them: neither their names nor where exactly they live in Tunis's chaotic lower-class suburbs. The only thing certain is that, after kissing in the street (perhaps it did not stop at this, but the substance of the matter changes little), they were detained by the police and taken before a judge on charges of public indecency.

    A single hearing in court followed, in which they initially tried desperately to deny the accusations, only to admit in the end that a kiss or two had been exchanged, trusting in the benevolence of the law. The judge, unmoved, applied the law to the letter. However, he handed down a relatively light punishment: a suspended sentence of two months in jail. What makes the incident worthy of note is that the one to alert the police was the girl's brother, who once he found out went directly to the police station to demand that something be done about it. What's more, the brother took action after getting tipped off by a diligent 'friend' who - on catching a glimpse of the two kissing - thought it his duty to inform the girl's family of the 'scandal'. The Arabic-language newspaper Assarir reported the news today, but did not provide details that could identify the two 'guilty parties'.

    The incident is also a sign of how the wind blows in Tunisia, and the changes wrought. The tolerance for which the North African country had been known for the past 50 years is slowly slipping away. The law has recently targeted other young people, but it should be noted that 'public decency' varies according to what area of the capital you find yourself in. While in the suburbs young people can be sentenced to jail time for kissing, the same cannot be said in wealthy residential zones like Marsa and Le Lac, where the sparkling nightlife and public kissing and hugging raises no eyebrows nor protest. (ANSAmed).

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