Monday, August 29, 2005

The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade

About a week old, this link, but worth reading nonetheless. Tells the story of Maria, a 30-year-old Ukrainian woman who sought a job in Italy as a housekeeper only to find herself duped into the flourishing global sex trade, perhaps the most ubiquitous form of modern slavery. While confined to an apartment in Italy, Maria was forced to service up to 10 men a day. She only gained her freedom when police raided the place and Italian authorities deported her -- as a criminal -- to Ukraine.

It has been several years now since Maria returned to her home in Ukraine. She still has not told her family about her ordeal in Italy. She says she is unsure if she ever will be able to tell her husband the truth.

"It was not worth it. What is important in life is family -- my children and my husband -- in spite of everything. At the beginning, the desire for material wealth was at the front of my mind and family came in second place. But after what happened, my priorities have been reversed," Maria said.

The above article references The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade, a book by Victor Malarek that I read earlier this summer. Overall, it's a very informative book. But in the end, I found the writing a bit plodding at times ("grunting" and "bellowing" bad men abound) and also a tad bit overwrought: "In these far-flung, out-of-sight hovels, fifteen-year-old girls are fair game ... and rape is just another word for rest and recreation." This last line introduces a section in which it's shown that UN workers and US soldiers in such places as Kosovo avail themselves of prostitutes, thereby allowing the sex slavery to continue. I won't disagree that this is a horrible thing (and if the book did one thing, it made me rethink the notion of prostitution as a victimless crime) but all the same, I'd prefer even a book about the Holocaust to be even-handed. You know, set the table and let me decide what to eat. I know what's bad. And so do you. Chances are, I'd say, if you're trying to tell someone who the Evil Doers are, you're a salesmen more than a reporter. Or perhaps just a politician.

I'll post some excerpts from Malarek's book in the coming days. I'd been meaning to anyway.