ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Colonial Hangover of the Moral Police

Maharashtra's new act on bar dancers has nothing to improve their working conditions.

The moral police is on the prowl, working its confounding ways on dance bars yet again. While grudgingly giving up on the ban of dance bars, legislators in Maharashtra have succeeded in creating yet another legislation—and how! The labels of “obscene” and “immoral” being applied to the performances of bar dancers again impose on the dancer the moral onus of not performing acts that “arouse” or are viewed as “sexual.” This was to be expected in the current atmosphere of conservatism endorsed by the ruling power.

The Supreme Court in October 2015 had ruled that the ban on dance bars cannot be upheld in law. On 2 March, the Court rapped the state government, ordering it to grant licences to dance bars by 15 March. It is more than a decade since the ban on dance bars was first put in place in 2005. The Maharashtra legislature has since, and only at the behest of the judiciary, progressed to lifting the ban, and has now put in place the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (Working Therein) Act, 2016. The act was passed by both houses of the Maharashtra legislature on consecutive days, 11 and 12 April, unanimously and without any debate whatsoever.

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