Child, Youth, and Family Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Sexuality & Culture 21 (2017), pp 163–186. DOI 10.1007/s12119-016-9388-4


Copyright © Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016. Used by permission.


This investigation was intended, first, to examine the early life and childhood experiences of adult women working in the red-light districts of Mumbai, India. A corollary to this goal was determination of processes that led to entry into the commercial sex industry (CSI). Second, we sought better understanding of women’s adult relationships with family of origin and key players of the brothel-based sex industry (e.g., peers, clients, brothel-keepers). Finally, we explored exiting options. In other words, to what extent is it possible to leave India’s brothel-based sex industry if one wanted to do so? Guided by the life-course theory of development, in-depth interviews were conducted with 30 women working in two red-light districts of Mumbai, India. Most women described childhoods of extreme poverty, had been trafficked into the CSI, and reported minimal social support as adults. Exiting was challenged by multi-faceted cultural and structural constraints. Implications for continued research are provided.