Figures on the scale of trafficking are often derived from small-scale surveys based upon disparate methodologies, or sources such as police records, local information, or media reports which cannot be statistically representative or empirically sound. These calculations are based on many untested assumptions. Most data on the number of trafficked persons are based on speculation and projection. To date, there is no sound methodology to calculate the number of those who have been trafficked.
The United Nations estimates that, in the last 30 years, trafficking in women and children for sexual exploitation in Asia alone has victimized more than 30 million people. There are few statistics which distinguish the number trafficked according to the age of the victim. In South Asia it has been noticed that several of the statistics on trafficked victims have remained unchanged over the years. To elucidate this point the case of Nepal would serve as a good example. The figure of 5000-7000 Nepali girls trafficked into India each year, eith 150-200,000 in Indian brothels, has remained unaltered over the past 15 years.
When trafficking is equated with migration on the one hand and prostitution on the other, then it logically follows that the number of victims of trafficking is equal to the number of those who have migrated or those who are engaged in prostitution. This logic operates particularly in the case of adolescent girls and women migrants, and not in the case of men. This practise has resulted in an extremely flawed methodology for conducting baseline surveys on trafficking in “risk prone” and “affected districts.” Household surveys have been conducted in South Asia by well-meaning community based organizations (CBOs) and researchers, for example, on the number of women and girls who are absent from their villages. These persons may have migrated voluntarily or under deception—however, there are no methodological variables to determine this information. Absence of women or girls is routinely considered tantamount to “missing persons,” and therefore, trafficked (Sanghera and Kapur 2001). Why are female migrants considered to be trafficked by anti-trafficking stakeholders while male migrants are considered to be simply that—male migrants?
Jyoti Sanghera, “Unpacking the Trafficking Discourse,” Trafficking and Prostitution Revisited, 9-10, 2005