Bar Dancers Coming to a Polling Booth Near You

As per a NYT article, out of work bar dancers, are now trying their hand at local elections. Surely will give the politicians a run for their money. Surely gives the phrase “in bed with the politicians” a completely new meaning !!

Out-of-job bar dancers in India’s financial hub of Mumbai said on Friday they would contest elections to the city council in a bid to overturn a ban on their popular nightspots that robbed them of their livelihood. Authorities in Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, closed down hundreds of dance bars in 2005 saying they corrupted young men and bred crime and prostitution. The ban saw many of the estimated 75,000 bar girls go away to other states to find work and some reportedly turn to prostitution while many were left jobless.

“We have had enough of begging and pleading for our rights,” Manjit Singh Sethi, president of the Mumbai Bar Owners’ Association, told Reuters. “Now we will try to find representation in the administration so that our concerns are addressed.” Sethi said former bar dancers would meet on Sunday to discuss whether they would fight as independent candidates or represent political parties. “We also have the option of floating our own party,” he said, adding that the dancers planned to contest at least 50 of the total 227 seats in Mumbai’s municipal corporation vote on February 1. Bar dancers say the ban is illegal as it violates their right to equality in terms of choosing their calling. The bars were hardly x-rated with the women who danced there to Bollywood numbers wearing saris and putting on display little more than their midriffs, they argue.

The bar owners and the dance girls had petitioned the state high court which struck down the ban in April. But the Maharashtra government was then granted a stay on that ruling by the Supreme Court which is still hearing the case. “By winning the election and participating in the administration we want to give a fitting reply to those who banned us,” said Chandni Khan, a former dancer who plans to contest the elections.

“Also, we want to fight the corruption in the administration.” Bar dancers, more than half of whom are uneducated, said they got the idea of contesting the polls after one of them won a village council election in Maharashtra last year. But a trade union of bar dancers said even if some girls win in Mumbai, they did not expect a drastic change in their lives. “It can be a way to empower these girls, but we have to see that in our enthusiasm we don’t become a laughing stock,” said Varsha Kale, head of the Bar Girls’ Association. “Many of the girls have said they want to contest.”


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