Marvel: Was Black Widow human trafficked?

Enigmatic Black Widow in action  Image: Marvel Studios
Enigmatic Black Widow in action Image: Marvel Studios

Black Widow, the popular Marvel character, raises disturbing questions about human trafficking. As the issue grows across the world, the superhero movie aims to draw attention towards the issue.

In a 2021 interview with USA Today, the film's lead actress, Scarlett Johansson, said that they wouldn't have been able to make a movie ten years ago. The film's director Cate Shortland said that they wanted the Marvel Cinematic Universe to "intersect with reality," and so they talked about trafficking. Shortland added that they also talk about women's reproductive rights in the film as it is something that they all care about.

Marvel Studios chose to use the character of Black Widow to fulfill its social responsibility to talk about a global crime. However, it isn't the only time that the MCU used a character to do as it did the same even in Black Panther.

Trigger warning: This article contains mentions of human trafficking, abuse of children and young girls, and forced sterlization.

Black Widow's past: Human trafficking explained

Natasha and Bruce Banner (Image via Marvel Studios)
Natasha and Bruce Banner (Image via Marvel Studios)

As revealed in the 2021 film Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff and her sister Yelena Belova, played by Florence Pugh, were victims of human trafficking in Russia. The film shows young women either being kidnapped or bought by traffickers and are often transported in boxes. It shows a young Natasha separated from six-year-old Yelena while older men exploit younger children.

They are kidnapped by a Soviet agency called the Red Room, which experiments on young girls and brainwashes them to become assassins. The agency also turns the young girls into ruthless, inhuman creatures. However, that's not all. The Red Room also completes the girls' tranformation by operating upon them without their consent so they are unable to reproduce.

When the girls why they are picked up for this task, the agency chief, Dreykov, states that they are the "largest available natural (human resource)."

It is also worth noting that the issue of Natasha's trafficking and forced sterlization was also brought up in 2019's film Avengers: Age of Ultron.

It happens when the Black Widow and Bruce Banner are having a conversation about potentially starting a romantic relationship. However, when Banner says that he will be unable to have a "normal life" and kids since he is a "rage monster," Natasha reveals what happened to her in the Red Room.

How does the Black Widow deal with her kidnapper and the mastermind behind the Red Room?

Dreykov, the chief of the Red Room, is a ruthless villain who even treats his own daughter the same way he treats the other girls. Later, Natasha goes to great lengths to destroy Dreykov, the Red Room and the entire chain of affairs.


She is aided by Yelena, who was also exploited by the villain, and the sister free several other trafficked girls and women. Black Widow opens up a can of worms about gender-based exploitation, violence, forced hysterectomies, atrocities done on small girls, and a lot more with this.

Needless to say, the gloomy history of one of MCU's three strong women plays a wider role in bringing the issue of human trafficking to light. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes has constantly emphasized how grave the issue of human trafficking is. It is a menace that is much greater than what meets the eye.

Natasha and Yelena (Image: Marvel Studios)
Natasha and Yelena (Image: Marvel Studios)

The human trafficking nexus uses everything from fraud, abduction, coercion, catfishing and abuse of power to take the girls away. However, it only gets worse from here as the girls are exploited, abused, forced into slavery or even used for organ trafficking.

Who is Black Widow?

Introduced in 2010's Iron Man 2, the Black Widow has been a charming enigma. Everyone sees a glimpse into her past when the Scarlett Witch reads and manipulates everyone's minds. The Avengers and viewers see Natasha's flashbacks of the Red Room and the torture and the brainwashing she endured, and it is clear that she was a killing machine.

Her journey from Black Widow to an Avenger is quite inspiring, especially in Avengers: Endgame when she sacrifices herself for the greater good.


Natasha disclosed the social issue of human trafficking that the UN and several crime-controlling organizations have spoken about multiple times. Needless to say, a popular character, especially a superhero speaking about a topic like this, had a huge impact on viewers.

The Black Widow does a commendable job of bringing the issue to the attention of several fans worldwide.

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Edited by Madhur Dave
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