Child, Youth, and Family Studies, Department of


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Dalla, R. L., Erwin, S., & Kreimer, L. (2019). Children of Mumbai’s brothels: Investigating developmental prospects, primary relationships, and service provision. Family Relations: Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Science, 68 (February 2019), pp 104–118.

DOI: 10.1111/fare.12347


Copyright © 2018 National Council on Family Relations; published by Wiley Inc. Used by permission.


Objective: To understand the context of the lives of children reared in India’s red-light brothel districts. Background: Substantial empirical insight has emerged on the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC). Yet the extant literature on brothel-based children (BBC), a uniquely vulnerable subset of at-risk children, is paradoxically deficient. Understanding the developmental needs of BBC is critical to mitigating risk.

Method: In-depth, semistructured interviews were conducted with 9 service providers and 30 women residing in 2 red-light brothel districts of Mumbai. Phenomenological inquiry informed the research methodology and data analysis.

Results: Mothers’ goals for children included survival, academic success, and future employment. Formal services were critical in meeting the basic needs of BBC, ensuring access to developmentally appropriate education, and maintaining safety overnight.

Conclusion: BBC are at considerable risk for an array of developmental challenges. Multisector service providers must work together and with the mothers of BBC to mitigate intergenerational sexual exploitation in the formal sex economy.

Implications: Results provide key areas for further research including longitudinal assessment of BBCs’ educational and occupational outcomes, as well as incidence of complex trauma among BBC and treatment options. Service gaps include outreach to older male BBC as well as shame reduction intervention.