- West Africa
- Immigration - Sex work
Mali’s prostitution gold mines a transit point to Europe?
Sex workers in search of their new eldorado
Bars of a new genre are flourishing in Sanso since Morila gold mine opened in 2001 in Mali. The keepers of the place are prostitutes, most of them Nigerian women brought here against their will. The girls can be found in the vicinity of the gold mines dotted over the country.
In Mali, Morila gold mine has become a source of income for prostitutes. The sex workers operate from the six bars in Sanso, a city located only a few kilometers away from the mine.
"After the opening of Morila in 2001, people began to open bars. At that time, there were ten girls per bar, all of them Nigerian." said Mohammed Maiga, in charge of the HIV/STD prevention among Sanso prostitutes.
"Young women are fooled into believing that they are on their way to Spain or somewhere else and during the trip, they are asked to settle near the gold mines to trade their bodies" he Maiga continues.
A young Nigerian woman interviewed by Afrik-news.com tells us: "A woman came to see me after school and promised me a job in Senegal. I never got there. Instead, I landed in Sanso, where I was forced to prostitute myself."
Prostitutes as business women
To overcome this situation, these young women have no other option but to multiply tricks to reimburse the transport expenses from Nigeria to Mali they owe their "pimp". But with a 15 000 CFA (22, 50 euros) monthly rent for a room vis-à-vis services that do not exceed 2,000 CFA (3 euros) per session, it takes them more than six months to raise the money.
"Some girls leave Mali once they’ve paid their ’debts’. But others decide to accumulate their financial gains to invest later in their country." Mr Maiga says.
Since the 2007 opening of Syama mine, near Sikasso in Eastern Mali, a significant number of the Sanso prostitutes’ customers have left with the hope of making more money at the new mine.
As a result, sex workers have also migrated to find more substantial incomes. "Today, there are only three bars in Sanso with an average of eight prostitutes per bar," recounts the man in charge of HIV/STD prevention among the Sanso prostitutes.
Prostitution equals danger
As for issues linked to the AIDS endemic in Africa, Mr. Maiga, who prostitutes call "condom teacher", says that although "in most cases, the girls succeed in making their clients use condoms", the situation is different "with their Nigerian ’boyfriends’ who accompany them. It is more complicated," he explains.
Prostitution has harmful effects on Sanso’s youth who, lured by money, have also begun to prostitute themselves. "They operate discreetly, and it’s impossible for us to follow them. They have no protection," Maiga says, suggesting a danger in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
A business monitored by police officers
According to sources from Morila mines, Sanso police officers use the prostitutes as their accomplices to extort money from people.
"Sometimes the prostitutes would befriend people and then later denounce them for sexual harassment or abuse ... before asking for money in exchange for the officer’s silence".
Given the rise in the number of gold mines in Mali, a country which counts gold among its premier natural resources, concerns over the extension of prostitution and HIV/AIDS, as it were, have been raised by experts.