Monday, April 18, 2005

Women's solidarity with bar girls

Going by the reports, posts and opinions in the English media and blogs, the verdict seems to be that the government has no business messing about with dance bars and the bar girls. I have nothing new to add to this issue, except to just say that I am in agreement with this verdict. I hope the Government will junk its current policy of moral policing. If at all it should get involved in this issue, it should spend its regulatory energy to ensure better working conditions for the bar girls.

What I have here in this post is just an observation about the fairly large number of women and women's groups that have lent their strong support for the bar girls (if not directly for the bars themselves) in their struggle against the Maharashtra Government's ill-conceived, misguided move to "protect decency". Here is a sampler:

  • Rashmi Bansal, the editor and publisher of a popular youth magazine called JAM - Just Another Magazine, has a blog post:
    "The argument that dance bars corrupt the youth is not valid. The youth have multiple avenues for corruption. Let the youth make their own choice."

    That's the opinion of writer Suketu Mehta, in an interview to Sunday Mid day. The issue in question is the closure of dance bars in Mumbai - and across Maharashtra. And I certainly agree with his assessment.
  • Writing in the Financial Express, Sucheta Dalal, first reveals that she is "no advocate of dance bars", and adds:
    "But the sudden closure of legitimately licensed businesses, without responsibility for loss of state revenue, needs a discussion. And, a blanket ban only covers the failure of police and enforcement machinery and the corruption involved in granting bar licences. It also sets the stage for bigger payoffs to reverse the ban, or to turn a blind eye when the business goes underground".
  • Tavleen Singh in the Deccan Herald:
    "When political leaders run out of ideas, when they no longer know how to meet the people's real demands they resort to cabarets and sideshows to distract the populace. [...] How else to explain why the government should be concerning itself with banning dance bars when there is so much real work to be done".
  • Jyoti Punwani in the Indian Express:
    With the grossest "item numbers" being staple fare on TV, cyber cafes in Mumbai charging as little as Rs 20 an hour to surf the Net, blue-film parlours sprouting in every small town, every second movie being almost soft porn, and X-rated magazines displayed all over the city after 7 pm, it's difficult to judge exactly what role dance bars, where customers must spend far more money than on any of the above, play in corrupting Maharashtra's teenaged boys and male breadwinners. Is it okay to be titillated by crude and graphic images of writhing half-clad women wherever you go, but not okay to actually see them in the flesh?
  • Here is Neha Viswanathan:
    Let's face it. The dance bars' girls are probably doing the same job as actors in cinema. Except there is no camera rolling, and no Simi Garewal to interview them to know about their innermost feelings while they were sipping Coconut water after the shoot.
  • Reshma Patil has a very good front page report in the Indian Express, titled "Mumbai police flaunt the law, ignore fine print".
  • This report in the Hindu (written by a "special correspondent") is a clincher: "Women's groups express support for dance girls", and they cite solid reasons for doing so. On a related note, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought the comments and response from the Chief Secretary of Maharashtra on this issue in four weeks.
  • The Writer-in-exile, who appears to be a woman, asks, "should dance bars be closed", answers "NO", and gives a bunch of reasons. Take a look.
  • Finally, here is Kama, whose self description at blogger reads, "I am an Indian Devadasi. I therefore believe that sex with men is divine and draws me closer to the presence of my Gods":
    This is so stupid as to be beyond belief ! Anyone who considers making 100 000 dancing women unemployed is going to "prevent" prostitution has got to be a total idiot. However this is typical of the Indian middle class when they seek to protect working class women.

Update (19 April 2005): Do take a look at some men's point of view here


  1. Anonymous said...

    Thanks for the link, and thanks for the many other links as well! It's interesting however how most blogs which consider themselves politically active still haven't made a mention of it. The theory being I suppose that as long as I don't go to a bar, it doesn't affect me!

  2. Anonymous said...

    Did you see that the Bar Girls have organised and got a court order to stop the closures.

    Hopefully this experience will encourage the women to resist other problems, including exploitation by bar owners.

    Organised resistance is an important asset so maybe the women will gain something from this cheap political game