About the photographer
Melanie Hamman is a photographer based in South Africa. With Media Monitoring Africa, she has developed a website to help journalists cover the topic of human trafficking in Africa.
See more of Melanie
Reporter E. Benjamin Skinner with Sindiswa a week before she died in a South African hospital, pregnant, HIV-infected, and ill from tuberculosis.
© 2009 Melanie Hamman
Melanie Hamman, photographer
Melanie Hamman worked to document human trafficking in Johannesburg, South Africa, before and during the 2010 World Cup. In Neiman Reports' winter 2010 issue, Hamman wrote that she has been compelled to document human trafficking, despite its many hazards. (See a quote from her essay below the images.) Her work appeared alongside E. Benjamin Skinner's article on the subject in Time magazine, January 18, 2010.
Rescue Johannesburg, 2009
Sindiswa, who was sold into prostitution, died a week after she shared her life story with reporter and Schuster Institute senior fellow E. Benjamin Skinner.
"While on assignment for Time magazine to investigate sex trafficking in South Africa one freezing cold night in July 2009, I met two girls who desperately needed help. Several months earlier, a recruiter had lured the best friends out of their township, then sold them into sex slavery for $120 and a bag of crack cocaine. The buyer was a Nigerian pimp named Jude, who kept every penny the girls earned on the streets. Jude had kicked out the older one, Sindiswa, 17, a week before I met her, because she was too sick to work," wrote Skinner for Nieman Reports about the unique challenges he faces as a journalist covering human trafficking.
Melanie Hamman, "Visual Stories of Human Trafficking's Victims: An Essay in Words and Photographs," Nieman Reports, Winter 2010:
"When human trafficking surfaced as a story during the World Cup in South Africa, numerous reporters sought me out, and they asked me “Can you get me a victim?” The insensitivity of their request hit me hard, revealing the ugly side of journalism. Insensitive sensationalist reporting of human trafficking—conveying little beyond the hype of headlines based on hugely exaggerated speculation—has led to a media backlash. The surge of misinformed reporting during the World Cup resulted in small but unrealistic expectations that government or legal authorities would respond in some positive way and in the public’s belief that once the World Cup left the stage, so, too, would the issue of human trafficking. It was as if South Africans convinced themselves that something foreign arrived with the sports event—and would be gone when the games were over."