Members of the ‘Bharatiya Bargirls Union’ have gone to Supreme Court to question the Maharashtra government’s law of 2016 that prohibited performances by women in bars.

The members filed a writ petition in the SC, which heard it on Monday. According to the petition, the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dances in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (working therein) Act, 2016, deters them from their source of livelihood through legitimate means.

The petition, filed by advocate Nikhil Nayyar on behalf of the association, said that the law disallows the members to use their free choice of expression through dramatic performances and earn livelihood through it. It also said that the law is a way of stigmatising their work by society and looking down upon it.

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Maharashtra passed the law last year, claiming that the dances performed by these women are giving way to obscenity. But the association retorted that the claim was only based on popular belief and had no groundwork to prove. It further said that the definition of obscene is kept vague under the law to stop the female performers and harass them over their work.

They elucidated that these dance performances are actually professionally choreographed and are close to the mainstream Bollywood music and also the dance performances done in weddings and other events.

The petition opposed the law against the tipping system in these dance bars saying, “The act of tipping or giving gifts as a token of appreciation has been customary and an integral part of traditional dance culture. This decades-old practice is akin to those performing Mujra, Lavani (traditional Marathi song and dance) or Tamasha (traditional Marathi theatre) where performers earn their living through ‘bakshisi’ offered by the audience as token of appreciation of the performances. The said practice is widely prevalent in Maharashtra and across the country. But the Act prohibits such practice contrary to traditionally accepted form of custom, thus failing to recognise that every performance deserves a prize,” reported TOI.

The Maharashtra government came up with a law to dismiss the SC judgment quashing an earlier ban on dance bars. But the state law came with its own restrictions of controlling obscenity in performances and keeping out immoral practices.

Picture credit – Rise for India