I have just finished reading this stunner of a book, and I realize that any review of it could potentially have many triggers, so I’ll talk about it under a cut:
The Natashas is perhaps the most shocking book I have ever read on any subject. Its subject is the illegal trafficking of women and young girls – as young as 10 years old – from Russia and other Eastern Bloc countries into other Eastern Bloc countries and worldwide, including into Canada, where I live, and into the United States. It is an industry that nets its merchants and purchasers many, many billions of dollars a year [I do not have statistics more recent than 2003], and which involves the sale of approximately two million women every year.
The horrific and well-proven fact I discovered while reading is that wherever, worldwide, that you find prostitutes, among them will be women trafficked from abroad; wherever, worldwide, there are strip clubs, among them there will be women trafficked from abroad; wherever, worldwide, there are “massage parlours” [as opposed to establishments run by Registered Massage Therapists] there will be women trafficked from abroad, and wherever, worldwide, there are brothels there will be women trafficked from abroad. When I say Most of these women come from Russia and the Independent States: the Ukraine, Moldova, Serbia, Kosovo, Latvia, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic….my list goes on.
The women involved usually leave their homes after being promised work abroad. They are given plane tickets, visas, promises of work as nannies, hotel maids, nothing sexual at all, and arrive in a foreign country where they are brutally received, trained in their new craft with incessant violence by pimps who lack mercy and compassion, and are set to work as prostitutes serving, in some cases, 18-20 men a shift. Often these women are locked in their rooms, with bars on the windows when they are not working; in most cases they are not given enough to eat and drink; when this woman is too tired to continue her work she can be replaced as new women are always available. Treated as non-human revenue generators, any woman is always disposable.
Even if a woman manages to escape the custody of her jailers, where does she go? The majority of sex trafficking is linked, directly or indirectly, to organized crime, especially to the Russian mafia. With large amounts of money available for bribes and with and free sex on offer, so often the police and the military in the region are complicit or even involved with the trafficking operation. Women who go to the police often find themselves back with their captors with beatings for trying to escape. Even if a woman is taken seriously, and the case goes to trial, it is commonplace that the traffickers involved will receive nothing more than probation or community service despite the many laws that they have broken. And is a law really a law if it is not enforced?
The book also took in the way that Bosnian women were treated by soldiers of many countries, UN workers, and members of the UN International Police Task Force during the peacekeeping mission of 1995 and beyond. For me, the rape and degredation of women during this period was the hardest part of the book to read, and upset me profoundly. I had heard of this situation before but had never read about it, and rather wish that I hadn’t, as it will haunt my dreams for a long time.
This book is not for the faint of heart. It is, however, stunning, superbly written, and so well-researched by the author, who is an award-winning Canadian journalist, that I am honestly surprised that he did not lose his life in the process of investigating the facts for the book. I am including this link which takes you to a short interview with Victor Malarek and may answer some of the questions this review does not address.