Banned performers turn to politics

An Indian restriction on bar dancing has former dancers clamoring for local office.

By Tracy Clark-Flory
Published January 5, 2007 7:20PM (EST)

Former bar dancers in Maharashtra, India, are resolving to get politically active in order to toss out a local ban on their brand of belly-revealing Bollywood-style entertainment. They're planning to either run as independent candidates or under their own political party in the February city council elections in Mumbai, the state's capital, arguing that the ban violates their basic right to choose a profession.

In 2005, such entertainment was banned and hundreds of dance bars were shut down, Reuters reports. After the dancers petitioned the state high court, the ban was reversed, only to be temporarily reinstated by the Supreme Court while the case is considered. But, Manjit Singh Sethi, president of the Mumbai Bar Owners' Association, said they aren't willing to wait and see what the court decides: "We have had enough of begging and pleading for our rights," he told Reuters. "Now we will try to find representation in the administration so that our concerns are addressed."

The ban caused more than 100,000 women to lose their jobs, according to the BBC. Many remained jobless; some moved to other states in search of work. Authorities originally claimed that the dance bars "corrupted young men and bred crime and prostitution." Ironically, though, some of the dancers -- most of whom are uneducated -- turned to prostitution as a result of their sudden unemployment.

Which seems to beg the question: Exactly what -- or whom -- is the ban protecting?

Tracy Clark-Flory

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