|Renowned South African human rights lawyer George Bizos was moved to tears by the abuses highlighted in an exhibition on human trafficking in South Africa, launched at Constitutional Hill, writes Jackie Bischof for journalism.co.za.|
|Looking at the photographs, Bizos said he “wondered what happened to sections of the Constitution in relation to the girls [in the images].” Bizos said he was shocked to see how the photographs displayed “practically every one of the sub-sections in Section 28 [being] evidently disregarded.” Section 28 in the South African Bill of Rights deals the protection of children.Bizos said he was confounded that human trafficking was still an issue in South Africa when other regions, such as parts of Europe, had virtually eradicated the problem within ten years of tackling it. “We don’t have to shout from the rooftops [about trafficking],” said Bizos. “We have [the media] and other ways in which our voices can be heard. But let’s not be silent.” He added that the first step that needs to be taken is urgently pushing through human trafficking legislation currently before Parliament.
The exhibition will run through mid-December and is part of Media Monitoring Africa’s interrogation of the media’s coverage of human trafficking in the country before, during and after the 2010 World Cup.Situated in the old Women’s Gaol at Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg, which housed several female activists during the apartheid era, the exhibition features the photographs of Melanie Hamman, who has been visually documenting incidences of human trafficking around the world since 2007. The exhibition of her work in South Africa features pictures of three victims who had been lured away from their home with empty promises of work and financial gain and were struggling to escape their situation.
Human trafficking is something that the ordinary South African is totally oblivious to, says Hamman, and the incredible wealth in the country makes it even harder to understand how the trafficking of young children can be so rife.“SA is a wonderfully prosperous country, and there’s so much hope and so much has been achieved in the last ten years,” said Hamman. “But I see the wealth and the prosperity and I’ve stepped into the darkest, most impoverished parts of this nation as well. And something about that is just not right. How can a nation care? And why doesn’t a nation care?” asked Hamman. Pursuing a life that is even “basically happy” is an impossible obstacle for some of the children who are trafficked.With
Hamman’s photos flanking one wall, the other side of the room featured images chosen by MMA’s Child Media Monitors. Some of the images had been taken by Hamman while others were captured by amateur photographers from the Umuzi Photo Club in Soweto. Over a period of four months, MMA ran media workshops with around 60 ‘Child Media Monitors’ aged 9 to 13, looking at whether South African media coverage of children was fair and balanced. A portion of the children focussed on the issue of child trafficking. Photographs chosen by the children and their responses to the pictures appeared in the exhibition.The children’s participation in the exhibition allowed them to “communicate their pressing concerns relating to children’s rights; how these rights are upheld or denied in their own communities and the potential impact this may have,” said the MMA’s William Bird.Prior to the exhibition, Hamman and the children also discussed media coverage of child trafficking rumours over the World Cup period and debated whether sensational reporting such as figures of 100 000 girls being trafficked in for the World Cup, or children being kidnapped and sold for tens of thousands of rands helped the issue or contributed to media fatigue.Some of the rumours were way off the mark. “South African children aren’t that valuable,” said Hamman. “It can cost you R100 for a pimp to buy a South African child. The media is not really telling the right story.”The exhibition will run until the middle of December at the Women’s Gaol at Constitution Hill on Kotze Street, Johannesburg. For more information on the MMA, visit http://www.mediamonitoringafrica.org/.