Acknowledging the right of women bar dancers in Mumbai to follow their profession, the Supreme Court on Thursday suspended the legal provisions banning dance performances in Maharashtra and directed the state government to grant licences to the bar owners without insisting on the prohibitory legislation.
However, it added that “no performance of dance shall remotely be expressive of any kind of obscenity in any manner” and that “the licensing authority can take steps so that the individual dignity of a woman is not affected and there remains no room for any kind of obscenity.”
The president, Adarsh Shetty of the Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (or AHAR, as they call themselves) is a happy man as the Supreme Court stayed the 2014 amendment in the Maharashtra Police Act that banned dance performances at hotels and bars.
Mr. Shetty says his association feels that dance bars if legally maintained and with an appropriate licence, could be a big boost to tourism. “We say Mumbai is an international city, but all that a tourist can do to experience nightlife here is go out for dinner. Where’s the nightlife?”
Once a bar dancer herself, screenwriter of Woh Lamhe and Aashiqui 2, Shagufta Rafique believes the ban takes root in class discrimination.
“It is sad that people shame those who choose to become bar dancers when it is not only a means of self-empowerment but allows women an option of staying away from prostitution.” she told The Indian Express.
Soon after the 2005 ban by the Maharashtra government, jobless girls chose waitressing, orchestra or mujra to fill their stomachs.Several moved to Kolkata where bar dancing continues unhindered. Those who were not strong enough to bear the change committed suicide.
This verdict will give these bar dancers a fresh lease of life as they all have been subjected to neglect and have been thrown into abject poverty.
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