When gold turns to dust: the story of teenage girl forced into sex slavery

Date: February 29, 2012
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Name of the article: I danced into hell, says teen following sex scam

Name of publication: Star

Name of journalist: Babalwa Shota

Date: 17 February 2012

Country: South Africa

Theme: Trafficking, Gender violence

Skills: Perspective, sources

Genre: News

Gem classification: Gender aware

After drug trafficking, human trafficking is tied with the illegal arms trade as the second largest criminal industry in the world, and it is the fastest growing. Due to poverty, many people across the globe are coaxed by scrupulous agents who promise them better jobs elsewhere. Europe and the US are well known major destinations for trafficked people. Upon reaching these “promised lands”, these youngsters are forced into sex slavery. This media highlight analyses an article published in the Star Newspaper about teenage girls who were trafficked to Turkey and steered into prostitution.

The headline, which is direct quote from the young woman, is relevant for the article and it summarises the contents of the story fairly. It also catches the eye of the reader. The young lady is given agency!

The article uses three sources, two female and a male. Imogan and her friend who opted for anonymity are two female sources in the article while police spokesman Captain Dennis Adriao is the only male source in the piece. This makes this article gender aware.

However, the article is missing the voices of human rights activists, government officials, and the Germiston and Turkish dance companies. The aforementioned probable sources are are key stakeholders in the issue and their comments would have added value to the article. Questions such: is the Germiston Dance Company part of this sex slave syndicate or not? are civil society organisations concerned with the incident? Now that this girl has managed to find her way back home, what is Turkish Dance Company saying about the sex-slave servitude “allegations”? are not answered because the writer did not interview some key stake holders.

The article used gender neutral language

Visual Images
The article was accompanied by an image of Imogan with her mother. The picture and the caption are both relevant to the article.

Story angle
The voice of Imogan is the most heard in the piece. Considering that the girl is at the hub of this “sex slave scam”, her voice makes the article more credible. Further, the article took an initiative to give safety tips to people travelling overseas to work. The tips are centred in the article, listed in bullet points, thus making them clear to the reader. In this case, the article did not only inform but educated the audience as well.

However, the journalist could have sought views of human rights activist dealing on issues this nature. Further, human trafficking and sex slavery are a globally concern. In this case, the writer could have also interviewed officials from The South Africa’s Departments of International Relations and Women, Children and People with Disabilities. These departments could have commented on how South African government is dealing with human trafficking issue and how they are dealing with this case in particular. In addition, the reporter could have informed the reader about human trafficking laws that are in place to protect women and men.

Placement and positioning
The article was accorded prominence by placing it on features page.

Training exercises
– How did the missing voices affect the article’s credibility?
– If a similar incident would happen in your country, list the sources you would interview and state the reasons for choosing them?
– Create a human trafficking awareness campaign to inform citizens on the issue
– What does the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development say about human trafficking?

Other training resources
– Gender Links (2008) fact sheet on human trafficking


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