'Maharashtra's ban on dance bars unjust'

Dance Bar Association hopes that SC will pave the way for thousands of bar girls to get back on their feet again with a positive order

Dance Bar Association president Bharat Thakur said, “I welcome the Supreme Court’s decision, as it brings a ray of hope for the thousands of unemployed bar dancers who can now bring their lives back on track. The state government was not justified in its ban on dance bars or in making artists (bar dancers) unemployed by labelling all of them as prostitutes.”

According to the association, the SC has given January 11, 2017 as the next date for hearing “By that time, the state has to allow all dance bars to operate in Mumbai,” said Thakur.

Three bars — Indiana at Tardeo, Aero Punjab and Sai Prasad at Andheri were granted licences earlier, on the condition that they would follow 26 guidelines to maintain the dignity of the performers, such as building a platform for them and maintaining distance between dancers and patrons.

The state was fighting to introduce a much stricter law giving the police greater power to regulate dance bars, but the association is relieved by the SC’s decision. “The police have to follow the apex court’s decision and allow bars to operate with old rules and norms, and not under the new strict legislation that the state had introduced, making it almost impossible for dance bars to operate,” Thakur said.

All dance bars will, of course, have to follow the existing 26 guidelines but this still means that thousands of girls can now get back to work.

'Damage is done'
One of the bar owners said “For a young bar girl, who was earlier the sole breadwinner in her family, banning the dance bars destroyed her entire family’s life. Now after 11 years, if the bars open again, she cannot get the same job because she is older now.”

Around 75,000 bar girls were left unemployed after dance bars were banned by Maharashtra government. Most of them went back to their hometowns, while some tried their hands at other jobs like waiting tables. Several also turned to the flesh trade to keep money flowing in.

But it wasn’t just the girls or the bar owners who were affected by the ban – thousands of make-up artists, tailors, and other people who were dependent on the industry for their livelihood.

Cop speak
A senior police officer said, “We are awaiting the official court order copy and only then will we be in a position to comment on the further course of action.” Another cop said that this is an interim order and that the state will propose some conditions in order to curb flesh trade and obscenity.

Guidelines
>> Erecting a platform for dancers
>> Putting a 3-foot-high railing around enclosure 
>> Maintaining at least 5 feet distance between dancers and patrons
>> No notes to be showered on dancers
>> No patrons to be allowed in performance area
>> CCTV cameras to be installed at the bar entrance

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