SC RECORDS HOW THE BAR GIRLS TOOK ON MAHARASHTRA GOVERNMENT
18, Jan 2019
Prelims level : Mains level : “Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues.”
- The 100-page judgment of the Supreme Court delivered on Thursday records for posterity how the Bharatiya Bar Girls Union of women working as dancers, singers or waitresses in bars, restaurants and beer halls challenged the might of the Maharashtra government.
- The women ridiculed the State’s “patriarchal notion of morality” to bring a draconian law in 2016 which stripped them of their livelihood and dignity.
- The union’s challenge led the Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan to conclude that the State had no right to thrust its notion of morality on society.
- For one, the State had claimed that bar girls were usually minors or victims of trafficking or prostitution and other forms of flesh trade. But the Bar Girls Union, represented by advocate Nikhil Nayyar, challenged the Maharashtra government to produce proof in the Supreme Court to back its claim.
- On the other hand, the bar girls’ union produced research material on record to show that reality was “diagonally opposite” to what the State claimed.
- ‘Newer opportunities. “The bar girls have voluntarily embraced dance bars to live with dignity and earn their livelihood… it (dance performances) opened newer opportunities and the option to leave exploitative sex work…,” the judgment quoted from the research.
- The union argued that bar dance was a “non-obscene performance” as held by several High Courts. It said the Maharashtra government wanted to “perpetuate a myth that dance bars pose any danger to law and order or cause disturbance to peace and tranquillity.”
- The union pointed out that dance bars remained closed across the State since 2005. Then where did the government get reliable data about immoral activities in them.
- “Therefore, the belief of the State Government that the working women in dance bars are involved in immoral activities such as prostitution, or that minors are being employed, are entirely baseless and irrational,” the judgment said, citing their argument.
Controversial Government Affidavit
- Opposed to what the government believed, various studies indicated that many bar girls felt “greater security in the bars due to the support network among the dancers as well as the protection provided by the owners.
- It was further noted that the bar owners, on the demands made by bar girls, provides
- taxis and auto rickshaws for women travelling late at night. The government had forced bar owners to install CCTV cameras, especially in dance areas. The court found it a violation of their privacy.
- One-fourth of the women found their income slashed by 90% after the ban. Subsequently, their health care, education and social security had dipped over the past few years. Some were pushed back into sex trade.