Prostitution in Algeria

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Prostitution in Algeria is legal but most related activities such as brothel-keeping and solicitation are criminalised.[1][2] Coastal resorts, particularly Tichy, are destinations for sex tourism.[3] As of 2017 there were two brothels in Algeria. [4]

Legal situation[edit]

Algeria's Criminal Code prohibits soliciting in a public place, assisting or profiting from the prostitution of others, living with a person engaged in prostitution, and procuring for the purpose of prostitution.[1][5] The criminal code also prohibits keeping, managing, or financing an establishment where prostitution occurs.[1][5] Penalties are harsher if the offence involves a minor, or if threats or coercion are involved.[1][5]


Ottoman rule[edit]

During Ottoman rule, prostitution was tolerated and regulated.[6] Prior to the French takeover in 1830, it was estimated that there were 300 to 500 prostitutes in Algiers. The women were Moorish, Arab, and sub-Saharan Africans. Jews were not permitted to become prostitutes.[7]

An official called the Mezouar was in charge of regulating prostitution. This official was always a Moor. The position was lucrative as he collected a monthly levy per prostitute. He kept a register of prostitutes and the women were not allowed to leave the brothels and public baths they worked in.[7]

French rule[edit]

French colonial soldier haggling for a better price from a prostitute on the Rue Balochine in the native Casbah of Algiers, North Africa – Edward Vebell – 1943

After French colonization in 1830, the French authorities regulated prostitution to try to prevent the spread of STIs. The regulation system was based on the Ottoman regulations that were previously in place,[6][8] and the Mezouar was retained, although he had to pay an annual fee of 2,046 francs.[7] Compulsory medical examinations for prostitutes were introduced by decree in July 1830. The main articles of the decree read:[7]

"We, Civil Intendant of French possessions in North Africa; Having regard to Articles 10 and 46 of Title I of the Law of 19–27 July 1791, Considering that experience has made it necessary to revise the regulations in force concerning public girls; have stopped and stop the following:
Art. 1. Any girl known to be engaged in prostitution shall be registered by the Commissioner of Police, Head of the Central Office, in a register kept for that purpose in the said office.
Art. 6. As of 1 October, all public women will be required to be visited twice a month and at intervals of fifteen days to have their state of health ascertained.
Art. 7. This visit will take place at the clinic. However, public women who wish to be visited at home may obtain the faculty by paying an extraordinary fee of 3 francs per visit, as a fee, in favor of the doctor.
Art. 11. The public girls visited at the clinic and recognized as suffering from venereal diseases will be held in this establishment for immediate treatment. As for those who would be visited in their homes and who would be in the same situation, they will be taken to the dispensary by the Police Commissioner.
Art. 12. To meet the expenses which will result from both the visit and the treatment of the public wives, it will be paid for and by each of these women, at the time of the visit, a remuneration of 5 francs, or 10 francs a month.
Art. 22. No public girl will be able to leave the city to visit the surrounding tribes without the written permission of the Police Commissioner, head of the Central Office; the same permission will be required to go to the feasts that are given either in the interior or outside the city.
Art. 24. The remuneration to be paid for each of the girls whose application will be made remains fixed, for the exterior, at 10 francs, and for the interior, at 5 francs."

In spite of the regulations, there were women who worked on the streets illegally.[7] As there was no longer a prohibition for Jewish women, some turned to prostitution.[9]

Number of registered prostitutes and their ethnicity in Algiers by year
(data from the dispensary of Algiers)[7]
1838 1839 1840 1841 1842 1847 1848 1849 1850 1851
Indigenous 254 257 254 299 282 203 181 183 248 170
European (Non-French) 63 67 91 95 97 93 77 90 89 60
French 31 34 44 51 70 107 78 82 113 81
Jewish 27 38 37 43 38 26 28 22 19 12
Black 0 17 20 19 23 22 23 24 24 16
Total 375 413 446 512 510 441 387 395 479 342

Brothels were established in all the main garrison towns, generally in the Muslim quarters so as not to offend the European residents. In 1942, the morality police recorded 46 brothels, 79 hotels, 600 furnished apartments, and a hundred clandestine houses used for prostitution in Algiers alone. These numbers remained about the same until independence in 1962.[7]

Ouled Naïl[edit]

Some historians claim that the Ouled Naïl were dancers only and that the French authorities' preconception that dancers were also prostitutes led to the Ouled Naïl's reputation for prostitution.[10]

Originally their dancing was fully clothed in their traditional clothing. Later it became topless and then fully nude. American dancer Ted Shawn saw them in 1900 and said that the dancing wasn't sexy as it left nothing to the imagination.[11]

Registered prostitutes were referred to as Nailiyas (from Ouled Naïl),[12] and in the latter 19th century, prostitutes in general were referred to as daughters of Ouled Naïl irrespective of their origins.[13] In Biskra, the centre of prostitution in colonial days was the Rue des Ouled Naïl.[7]

Many of the Ouled Naïl women were pressed into service as prostitutes in the mobile brothels (Bordel militaire de campagne) during the Algerian War of Independence and also transported with mobile brothels to Indochina for the use of the troops in Điện Biên Phủ.[11][14][15]

Rahbat al-Jammal[edit]

During Ottoman rule, resting stops, khans, were built for travellers and their horse and camels. In Constantine, the khans were located at Rahbat al-Jammal. Following the French occupation, the buildings were turned into brothels for the French soldiers. The city elders forbade Algerian women from entering the street. Although the brothels closed down in the 1980s, the ban on women entering the street continues to the present times.[16]


As a result of Arabization of the country, the rise of Islamism[7] and the civil unrest following the economic downturn caused by the 1980s oil glut, brothels were banned in 1982,[4] forcing many of the prostitutes to work on the streets.[7] However, some of the counties 171 brothels were allowed to remain open under the close scrutiny of the police. In 2011 there were 19 supervised brothels operating.[3] By 2015 the number of brothels operating with the complicity of the Algerian authorities had reduced to two.[4][better source needed]

Sex trafficking[edit]

Human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Algeria for sex trafficking. Undocumented sub-Saharan migrants, primarily from Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Guinea, Liberia, and Nigeria, are most vulnerable to sex trafficking in Algeria, mainly due to their irregular migration status, poverty, and language barriers. Unaccompanied women and women travelling with children are also particularly vulnerable to exploitation.[17]

Sub-Saharan African women, often en route to neighbouring countries or Europe, enter Algeria voluntarily but illegally, frequently with the assistance of smugglers or criminal networks. Many migrants, impeded in their initial attempts to reach Europe, remain in Algeria until they can continue their journey. While facing limited opportunities in Algeria, many migrants illegally engage in prostitution to earn money to pay for their onward journey to Europe, which puts them at high risk of exploitation.[17]

Some migrants become indebted to smugglers, who subsequently exploit them in sex trafficking upon arrival in Algeria. For example, female migrants in the southern city of Tamanrasset, the main entry point into Algeria for migrants and for the majority of foreign trafficking victims, are subjected to debt bondage as they work to repay smuggling debts through forced prostitution.[17]

Some migrants also fall into debt to fellow nationals who control segregated ethnic neighbourhoods in Tamanrasset; these individuals pay migrants’ debts to smugglers and then force the migrants into prostitution. Foreign women and children, primarily sub-Saharan African migrants, are exploited in sex trafficking in bars and informal brothels, typically by members of their own communities, in Tamanrasset and Algiers.[17]

The government did not investigate, prosecute, or convict any perpetrators for sex trafficking crimes in 2018, despite reports that sex trafficking occurred in Algeria, especially among the migrant population.[17]

In 2020, the United States Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons downgraded Algeria's rank from "Tier 2 Watch List" to a "Tier 3" country.[18]

Further reading[edit]

  • Aziz, Germaine; Taraud, Christelle (2007). Les chambres closes : Histoire d'une prostituée juive d'Algérie. Nouveau Monde Editions. ISBN 9782847362497. ASIN 2847362495.
  • Dunne, Bruce W. (1994). "French Regulation of Prostitution in Nineteenth-Century Colonial Algeria". The Arab Studies Journal. 2 (1): 24–30. JSTOR 27933632.
  • Taraud, Christelle (2003). La prostitution coloniale : Algérie, Tunisie, Maroc, 1830-1962 [Colonial Prostitution: Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, 1830-1962] (in French). Payot. ISBN 9782228897051. ASIN 2228897051.


  1. ^ a b c d "Sex Work Law". Sexuality, Poverty and Law Programme. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
  2. ^ "The Legal Atlas for Street Children". Consortium for Street Children. November 2020. Retrieved 24 January 2021.
  3. ^ a b Charpenel, Y, ed. (2019). "Algeria" (PDF). Sexual Exploitation: New Challenges, New Answers (5th Global Report). Fondation Scelles.
  4. ^ a b c Bouraque, Tarek (5 January 2015). "Prostitution: le paradoxe algérien". Telquel (in French). Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  5. ^ a b c "Code Pénale" (PDF). The Equal Rights Trust. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  6. ^ a b "Observing Prostitution in Algeria · Prostitution in Algeria: Free or Forced? · A la Recherche des Femmes Perdues". Oberlin College Library. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Abid, Larbi (12 January 2007). "Des maladies vénériennes, de la prostitution". Sante Tropicale (in French). Archived from the original on 15 July 2018.
  8. ^ Adamson, Kay (1998). Algeria: A Study in Competing Ideologies. A&C Black. ISBN 9780304700127.
  9. ^ McDougall, James (2017). A History of Algeria. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781108165747.
  10. ^ "Prostitution and Culture; The Case of the Dancing Girl - Prostitution and Colonialism: A Comparative Analysis of Algeria and North India - A la Recherche des Femmes Perdues". Oberlin College Library. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  11. ^ a b "The tribe that he was training the girls at the dance and not only". Athens Times. 24 December 2016. Archived from the original on 26 December 2016. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  12. ^ Jansen, Willy (1987). Women Without Men: Gender and Marginality in an Algerian Town. Brill Archive. ISBN 978-9004083455.
  13. ^ Ditmore, Melissa Hope (2006). Encyclopedia of Prostitution and Sex Work. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780313329692.
  14. ^ Bernard B. Fall, Street Without Joy: The French Debacle in Indochina, Pen & Sword, 1961, p.133, ISBN 978-0811732369
  15. ^ "10 Tales Of Prostitutes In War And Espionage - Listverse". Listverse. 13 January 2016. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  16. ^ Boukebba, Abderrazak (6 January 2016). "The Algerian street where women are barred". Alaraby. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  17. ^ a b c d e "Algeria 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report". United States Department of State. Retrieved 14 March 2020.Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  18. ^ "Algeria 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report". United States Department of State. Retrieved 24 January 2021.

External links[edit]