Gold digging with gold miners: an old tradition

The only objectionable thing in the story below, which describes one of prostitution’s classic traditions, is the editor’s addition of scare quotes around the word work to describe what the women are doing. He or she slipped in the last paragraph, though, and left the punctuation out. Since selling sex to miners in a position to pay well has always been a draw to mobile workers, there is really no ‘news’ in this story at all. I note that no one felt called to claim these women are being trafficked or enslaved.

I particularly appreciate the matter-of-fact statement from one woman, who finds the work filthy but puts up with it as part of a life plan to get ahead. Will someone say that she is trafficked in the sense of being forced by circumstance? If so, do you mean that no other job available to this woman pays enough for her to make such a plan? That is likely, but won’t it be great for her when she does get to do what she wants? I mean, aren’t you glad for her? If she doesn’t think she’s damaging herself by selling sex, why should you?

Prostitution big business in Suriname gold fields

Stabroek News, 31 January 2012

Paramaribo: The commercial sex industry is also benefiting from high gold prices. A field investigation by de Ware Tijd shows that this industry is attractive to both local and foreign women, whose main motivation is the huge amounts that can be earned in a relatively short time.

“No minors are coming, but the ages vary between 20 and even 45. Many Brazilians, Dominicans, Guyanese and French are coming to ‘work’ in the gold fields, as well as Surinamese women”, says one woman active in the gold fields near Brownsweg in the District of Brokopondo. One Guyanese woman says she is paid two grams of gold for twenty minutes and five for an entire evening, and she can sell one gram for SRD 150 in Paramaribo. In a good month, she can earn at least US$ 2,000.

Another woman says her ‘work’ in the gold fields is very lucrative, but adds immediately that she is not proud of what she does. “This work is filthy and I don’t intend to do this for the rest of my life. I want to buy my own equipment to get started in the gold business”.

The women say they are discreet in order to prevent their close relatives, particularly their children, from finding out about their work. There is growing concern about the social disruption in hinterland communities close to gold fields. Village heads in particular have often sounded the alarm, and the issue has even been discussed in Parliament many times. Especially young girls reportedly cannot resist the temptation of fast and easy money. “The women here are doing it for the money”, it is said.

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

4 thoughts on “Gold digging with gold miners: an old tradition

  1. Xeginy

    I like the last sentence – “The women here are doing it for the money.” Of course they’re doing it for the money. The gold miners are doing that for the money, too. What did they think the women were doing, college internships?

      1. Maggie McNeill

        You’ve gotta love the way prohibitionists characterize sex work as filthy, degrading, soul-destroying slavery, and “fast and easy money”, at the same time. For their next trick, they’ll show you dry water and powdered wishes.

        1. Laura Agustín

          no, that was the comment of one of the women themselves, and I meet plenty of workers that say the same: they don’t like the work or don’t think it’s real work but rather sin and degradation. But – And – they prefer to do it. A more powerful argument in my view than lots of others.


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