“This fat, sweaty pig is reaching his climax and he begins to murmur ‘Oh Natasha! Natasha!’ At first I thought it strange being called by another name. But very soon I came to accept it as my escape. When I was alone in my thoughts and my dreams I was Marika—free from this prison. But when I was with a man, I became this other woman—this prostitute called Natasha who was cold and dead inside me.
Natasha was my nightmare. Marika was my salvation. I never told any of these men my real name.
And they never asked.”
Marika, a girl from Ukraine trafficked to Israel where she was held as a sex slave, inspired the name of Malarek’s book: The Natashas: The New Global Sex Trade. She like so many women and girls the world over was lured into the global sex trade by promises of work. She expected to be a waitress. But instead of serving food, Marika served men. Under the watch full eye of her owner, Avi, she and girls from across Eastern Europe were forced day in and day out to perform sexual acts for men in the Holy Land. They were ‘The Natashas’- whores from Russia.
The Natashas is not a new book. It was published in 2003. But I recently stumbled upon it thanks to the recommendation of a friend, and after reading The Natashas, I feel it is as relevant today, almost ten years later, as it was when it was first published. A quick look at the 2010 US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report is enough to know that trafficking in women to serve as sex workers is alive and well. After illegal weapons and drugs, the global sex market is the third most profitable black market commodity.
“There’s a lot of money to be made on one woman. They could kidnap or buy her for $500 and within a year make $250,000 off her body. For so many of these young women, there’s absolutely no protection. They’re unemployed; they’re desperate; they’re destitute …Organized crime knew this is a field [they] can exploit,” said Malarek in an interview for PBS.
Malarek’s book is not an easy read. Page after page there are shocking tales of brutality. Stories of women whose lives are a reoccurring nightmare, women who are locked up in brothels, deprived of contact with their families, beat by their pimps, all the while serving dozens of clients a night against their will for little or no pay until they die, escape or are freed by police or their captors. The US State Department estimates that there are approximately 800,000 to 900,000 women trafficked into sexual servitude, but NGOs say the number is higher.
Through firsthand accounts from trafficked girls, NGOs workers and police Malarek pieces together this insidious industry. Literary magazine Quill and Quire writes Malarek details “how the trafficking industry works, how and why officials look the other way, and how hypocritical and complicit Western countries – especially the United States – are in ignoring the criminal activity and human rights abuses because of political considerations.”
Some critics argue that Malarek’s moral indignation speaks louder than the facts, which if left to speak for themselves would be loud enough, but I can understand why his emotions got involved. I’m glad they did. They pushed him to call on policy makers the world over to make more of an effort to prevent trafficking in women and girls and help those who have already been trafficked.
“If we truly want a fair shot at saving these women, we need to open not only our minds but also our wallets. We need to focus on programs that care compassionately for the victims and we need to implement them immediately, worldwide.”
There is no doubt that as a reader, your emotions will get involved, so be prepared, but enjoy the access you have to one of the world’s most seedy industries and the things you will learn from it.