BRAMA, Sep 17, 2004, 3:00 pm ET|
Complicity, complacency, corruption drive global trafficking trade, concludes author Victor Malarek
By Hanya Krill
The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade
By Victor Malarek
List Price: $26.00
Barnes & Noble price $20.80
US book launch tonight!
Friday, September 17 at 7:00pm
Ukrainian Institute of America
2 East 79th Street
The Natashas: The New Global Sex Trade
Destination western nations and originating countries both are complicit and complacent, and rife with corruption, all of which contribute to the growth of a new criminal industry - the illegal trafficking of women for sex. So says author Victor Malarek, whose riveting book titled "The Natashas - Inside The New Global Sex Trade" has gone into a second printing in Canada. The original English version is being distributed in the US (official launching today), the UK, India, and Australia, and it has been translated into Spanish, Turkish, Finnish and Ukrainian (a work in progress). "Natashas" is a name given to all East European prostitutes.
Malarek doesn't pull any punches in his book and doesn't mince his words when speaking about the issue. His unwavering defense of the victims of trafficking is palpable as he passionately describes the deplorable conditions under which women are forced to work and live. That they are victims and not willing participants remains crystal clear in his mind no matter how many times he hears from government officials or men who avail themselves of such services that "the women knew what they were getting into" or "they do it for the money." He knows that not a single one of the victims would willingly submit to be "raped by a fat, ugly, doughy pervert", especially when most of the time it's the pimp who gets the money, not the woman being used for sex.
In the book, Malarek condemns the West for not doing enough to halt the spread of criminal trafficking in women. He confronts governments head-on for lax or misguided laws. Often the legal framework is there, but enforcement is weak or non-existent. Too often the laws are designed to punish the victim, while the perpetrators - pimps and traffickers - are left untouched. The author favors the Swedish model for combating trafficking, which contrasts significantly with the methods adopted by other countries. The policy in Sweden is to offer maximum protection to the victim while making the purchase of sexual services by 'johns' and the traffickers who transport the (often underage) women across borders punishable offenses.
Throughout, the author recites a litany of four originating countries - Russia, Moldova, Romanian and Ukraine - but he is noticeably less critical in his book about the responsibilities of these countries for protecting women from the traffickers. Malarek mostly indicts the West, the regions of the world where the demand for the sexual services of enslaved women is driving the trade in human flesh. The UN is also criticized for not doing enough to address the issue. He cites the fact that nearly seven years were devoted just to defining what trafficking is. If it takes that long to come to consensus on a definition, how long will it take to decide on taking action against it?
UN peacekeepers in Europe are harshly criticized by Malarek as enablers and abusers. Although one of the stories Malarek tells has a Ukrainian contingent aiding in a rescue operation at a brothel that was holding women against their will, he said that in fact all peacekeepers including the Ukrainian ones are guilty of using the services of the sex slaves.
The few individuals who have attempted to expose the abuses have been in one way or another prevented from speaking out or changing the status quo. One of these exceptions is Olexander Mazur, a Ukrainian police officer stationed in Europe at the time that Malarek was conducting his investigation. Mazur has been fighting a losing battle against the unjust practices that leave a woman powerless to defend herself, but he knows why. In Kosovo, "Mazur explains that the Albanian judge is faced with a case that pits his religion, his people and his culture against a woman he thinks of as nothing more than a whore. 'Also the pimp, this bar owner, is a nice guy, an upstanding person in the community. He is rich and he is helping to finance the Kosovo Liberation Army. So he is a hero. All this is connected.'"
Ukraine's view in the early stages of the trafficking problem in the post-Soviet era was largely that the problem was not its responsibility. The women were, after all, living abroad. Although Ukraine has adopted anti-trafficking legislation, the law has yielded few arrests and even fewer penalties for those convicted. Ukrainian NGO La Strada had complained that the punishments meted out for those convicted were regarded as little more than slaps on the wrist. To be fair, most of the new (13-year-old post-Soviet) governments are faced with nearly insurmountable economic, social and health problems, such as the HIV/AIDS crisis, and trafficking may not be at the top of their list of matters to address (although this is no excuse for tolerating abusive behavior). To be honest, the attitudes in these countries are more often than not that the women would not be found in the slavery-like conditions if they had not "asked for it."
People find it hard to believe that women could be duped so easily. "They can't be that stupid" is a phrase Malarek hears over and over again. Poverty and despair are the main reasons why women fall into the trap of being trafficked. Faced with few prospects for earning a living and feeding their children, abusive husbands, women choose what they perceive to be their only way out. Because of indifferent societies and left with few if any legal alternatives the women remain stuck with the choices they made, often branded for life.
On the night before the U.S. launch of "Natashas", event organizer Roksolana Luchkan (center) meets with Tina Paul (left) who will reading exerpts from the book and author Victor Malarek.
Legalization of prostitution (thus opening the doors to legal migration or trafficking of women from abroad) is not the solution, says Malarek. It solves nothing for the women. "The point is that they don't want to do this type of work," stresses Malarek. "Legalization only serves to obfuscate and confuse the issue," making it more difficult to determine which women actually were trafficked. In other words, it empowers the trafficker even more as victimization of the woman becomes legally sanctioned.
"The Natashas" is a powerful portrayal of the seedy and dangerous world of sex trafficking, and Malarek's disdain for those who would rape or abuse women, children or the elderly is evident on every page. His bitterness towards such abuse coats every word he utters. Victor Malarek's deep feelings about such issues stem from his own upbringing - he spent much of his childhood and teen years in institutions for boys. Fighting for the underdog, as he puts it, comes naturally to him.
Mr. Malarek has given the rights for translation and publication in Ukraine in order to make the book available for free in that country. He hopes that his book will act as a wake up call to the plight of the trafficked and abused victims, and to the pervasive hypocrisy surrounding the feeble attempts to address their needs.
Victor Malarek, who is of Ukrainian descent, has been a journalist for more than thirty years and currently works as a reporter for CTV Television in Canada. "The Natashas" is dedicated to his 19-year-old daughter, Larissa.
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