Describing it as a “taboo” stemming from acute “gender bias,” the Supreme Court on Monday put an end to a 59-year-old tradition that bars women from becoming make-up artists in the Indian film industry.
Till now, only men were allowed to wield the brush while women could be hairdressers.
The Indian Express had first reported on November 4 about the court’s ultimatum to the trade union to delete this clause on their own or be ready for a judicial order. The trade union, however, refused to accept the SC suggestion and argued that this was to ensure that men are not deprived of work. While issuing the order for Bollywood on Monday the bench said that it would also apply to such unions in Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad that have film industries and all other regional federations that bar women from the job.
The court ordered deletion of relevant provisions from the Constitution of the Cine Costume Make-up Artists and Hair Dressers Association (CCMAA), considered the Bollywood’s official body of these professionals. The trade union had said women could become members and work in the Bollywood only as hair dressers, apart from insisting on a minimum five-year domicile in Maharashtra to become eligible for a membership card.
The bench junked both the clauses and directed the Maharashtra’s Registrar of trade union to ensure omission in 10 days. Holding that harassment of women is “unconscionable, unacceptable and untenable,” the bench also directed the police to ensure they are not harassed as they seek to procure their membership cards.
Slamming the restriction, the court said, “It is scuttling drive in an individual to achieve excellence in his or her field of work. Such a limitation is unacceptable. We have no hesitation in saying that it is a discrimination between men and women without any reasonable or rational criteria but solely on gender basis.”
The court was hearing a petition by Charu Khurana and other women make-up artists, who were rebuffed by the CCMAA when they applied for make-up artist cards. Khurana, who was present in the court on Monday, said she was relieved that her right to earn a living had been restored and that her decision to fight back the bias culminated into a positive direction for all the women in the Indian film industry.