he Supreme Court had earlier struck down a state government imposed a ban on the dance bars as it violated bar dancers’ right to earn a livelihood. However, the state government was determined to not let the dance bars stage a comeback. So, they drafted some rules which can put bars in an awkward situation. The draft rules restrict the number of dancers on the floor and also prescribe a minimum distance between the performers and the audience, meaning customers can’t dance on the floor. Further, smoking would not be allowed inside the dance bars, nor would flashing of currency notes be permitted. The state government draft specified that every dance bar must have CCTV cameras with the feed beamed live to the nearest police station. Since dance bars were always a guilty pleasure, the rules were unlikely to attract any customers with cops watching the proceedings all the time. Striking down all these old rules, now the SC says that alcohol is allowed and no CCTV in the Maharashtra dance bars will be required. While the court set aside the condition to install CCTV cameras in the bars on the grounds of privacy, it prohibited showering of currency notes on the dancers, which is likely to be impossible to follow. The bench also quashed the provision mandating that dance bars in the state should be located at least one km away from the religious places and educational institutes.
While the ban on Mumbai bars was at peace for some years, suburban areas were clean. Crime ratio had gone down and the glamour and glitz city was limited to pubs, parties, and movies. On the other hand, those who survived on bar dancing, got into prostitution or sex slavery. More than a few hundred young women were migrated from Kolkata to Mumbai. After the Maharashtra government shut down Mumbai’s dance bars in the garb of curbing ‘immoral activities’, they all were sent back to their native. Some went to the foreign lands. The pimps and flesh traders flourished exploiting these women. Mumbai is already cursed with many illicit activities. All the former agents, those who switched to better jobs, will return to their original profession and will be busy gathering bar dancers. After the dance bars will reopen with fewer rules to follow, they’ll all be accommodated eventually. Relocation means occupying flats in Mira Road and Navi Mumbai like areas, where low-income middle-class families reside. Return of Bar dancers may lead to the hike in the property prices. Estate agents will prefer to allot houses to these dancers for more money. The common public may suffer. But looking at a larger picture, even these Bar professionals too are from the middle-class community, who need to survive.
Any law or ban made on a purely moral basis should be struck down. After all, morality is relative and should not be enforced. Moreover, banning these activities will lead to only further exploitation of the said women, as they would be pushed into illegal work options. What is really needed is enforcement of law and order, which ensures that the women work in a secure environment. Legislature, Executive and judiciary are the three important structures of the government. I understand the judiciary’s stand, but why are they not equally prompt over other corruption and crime issues? If the logic is accepted, then the government of India should start dance bars all over India and give loans for these businesses to attract FDI.
If the Supreme Court’s verdict of opening closed dance bars and having easy rules is applauded, the SC should now legalise prostitution. There is no wrong working as a bar girl and making wealth and living lavishly. Bar girls have their way to sex trading, many men were cheated and looted by these girls. We have seen many criminal cases in the past. The question here arises, is this the only way we can liberate poor women? Somewhere we are mixing the issues – while women need the right to work, safety and dignity at the workplace, dance bars surely don’t fall in that category. Bars are fronts for destructive men. Moreover, many of them run on investments by the cops themselves supported by the sleaze money that flows through the system. The dancing women may be making gold jewellery but quite a few men, who become addicted to these dancing beauties, have pauperised themselves and their families.
The need of the hour is to evolve a code of conduct for running the dance bars so that anti-social elements do not find the hideout for illegal activities with the connivance of the bar owners and staff. As long as the dignity of women is not violated, there is no harm in pursuing the dancing profession in bars. But the harsh fact is that, no such profession is blessed with dignity. Both the woman who wants to earn quick money and the man who wants to live the so-called happy lusty moments, are aware that this is not the dignified place. We talk morals and liberty when it comes to other woman and benefit to a man himself, but he will keep a tight eye on his own female family member if she wishes to peruse dancing in Bar as a profession.
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