Quill and Quire

REVIEWS

« Back to
Book Reviews

The Natashas: The New Global Sex Trade

by Victor Malarek

Reading Victor Malarek’s The Natashas is a little like watching an investigative report by Geraldo Rivera: The facts are all there, but sometimes it’s hard to hear them through all the moral indignation. That’s because Malarek, an investigative reporter who recently left The Globe and Mail for the CTV current affairs show W5, has written more than an exposé about a sex trade whose workers are kidnapped and trafficked like human cattle. He has also decided to make the book a call to action, a J’Accuse to the world at large.

It’s understandable why he did so, but he should have just let the facts speak for themselves. This book is most successful when Malarek documents how young girls and teens from Russia, Moldova, Ukraine, Romania, Belarus, and other former Soviet republics are lured by gangs under false pretences and are then bought and sold like slaves before being sent to more prosperous nations where they are forced into prostitution. (Because their clients believe them all to be Russian, the girls are always referred to as Natasha.)

Their lives are a living hell – locked up during the day so they don’t escape, the girls are sent to service clients by night. They receive little or no pay, are regularly beaten into submission by their pimps, and their families back home never hear from them again. It is an insidious crime – the girls are hidden from regular society so people aren’t aware of the scope of the problem, but the U.S. State Department puts their numbers at 800,000 to 900,000. Humanitarian groups say there are millions.

Malarek’s strength, and it’s a considerable one, is to detail how the trafficking works, how and why officials look the other way, and just how hypocritical and complicit Western countries – especially the United States – are in ignoring the criminal activity and human rights abuses because of political considerations. His chapter on corruption at the United Nations is worth the price of the book alone.