Bangalore's barwomen ordered to wear 'decent' clothes

Published: July 10, 2013
In 2009 Hindu extremists attacked women in a fashionable bar in the nearby city of Mangalore, accusing them of "debauched behaviour" for drinking and smoking. PHOTO: FILE

In 2009 Hindu extremists attacked women in a fashionable bar in the nearby city of Mangalore, accusing them of "debauched behaviour" for drinking and smoking. PHOTO: FILE

BANGALORE: Women hired as bartenders in the southeastern Indian IT hub of Bangalore must wear “decent” clothes including long-sleeved shirts and trousers, according to new state government guidelines approved by a top court.

The government of Karnataka state issued the guidelines after bar and restaurant owners took legal action to try to stop police shutting down licensed premises that employed women on the grounds of indecency.

The High Court in the state capital Bangalore ordered police Tuesday to allow the hiring of women as bartenders after accepting the state government’s dress guidelines.

“We have submitted to the Karnataka High Court a set of guidelines to be strictly followed by owners of bars and restaurants employing women to serve their customers,” a state home department official told AFP.

Barwomen should be aged 21 years or above and wear full-length trousers and full-length shirt or T-shirt with or without a blazer or a salwar kameez (a Punjabi suit) to “prevent indecent displays of their body”.

The guidelines are legally binding, with police given the power to strip bars of their licences if female employees do not follow the new dress code.

They are the latest example of what critics decry as moral policing in Bangalore and the state of Karnataka, home to a booming professional middle class.

In 2009 Hindu extremists attacked women in a fashionable bar in the nearby city of Mangalore, accusing them of “debauched behaviour” for drinking and smoking.

They followed up with a warning that any couples courting on Valentine’s Day risked being frog-marched to the nearest temple and forced to marry.

The legal action or petition was taken by the Bangalore Ladies’ Working Bar and Restaurants Owners’ Association.

“The High Court has directed the city police to allow licensed bars and restaurants to hire women bartenders in accordance with the guidelines and see how they operate over the next three months,” the official said.

A lawyer for the association, R Gopalakrishna, said the owners would comply with the guidelines but the new rules imposed additional costs on bars and restaurants employing women.

“The guidelines will add to the operational cost of running a bar and restaurant, as owners have to not only pay salary to the lady bartenders, but also provide a decent dress and arrange for their transport from home and back to ensure their safety and security,” Gopalakrishna told AFP.

The guidelines also ban obscene behaviour by customers towards the women. They also prevent the hiring of men, women and transgenders for dancing or any other form of entertainment in bars and restaurants, the official said.

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Reader Comments (24)

  • Observer
    Jul 10, 2013 - 4:45PM

    India going Taleban’s foot step?


  • Water Bottle
    Jul 10, 2013 - 6:00PM

    Some practical points to consider :

    1) The women who work in these bars are from mostly North-East/East India (who are vulnerable because of their different looks and language barriers).

    2) The number of bars that employ women bartenders are not more than a dozen or a dozen and a half. I have been to some of them.

    3) Most of the women who work here, do so not because it is a great place to work. But they need to earn a living. It’s a necessity.

    4) The police force in almost all parts of India is under-handed. Including Bangalore.

    5) These women work into late nights and many of them have to leave for their homes at that time, which is unsafe.

    Given all these factors a dress code issued by the government is welcome.

    Is this an infringement of women’s right? Perhaps, but I seriously doubt that any of these bar girls will complain. The complaint is mostly from the bar owners. And anytime anywhere a businessman complains, he complains on the basis of profitability and rarely on the basis of morality, ethics or human rights.


  • Ahmed
    Jul 10, 2013 - 6:21PM

    The Indians got it. I just wish Pakistani Secular-Liberals get it one day.


  • Gp65
    Jul 10, 2013 - 6:48PM

    In Taliban rule, there would be no bars. Second women would not be allowed toshe employed n a place which is not a women’s only place. Third women would be ordered to wear a burkha.
    No comparison. But yes, this is a slippery slope and one should watch out for it.


  • Water Bottle
    Jul 10, 2013 - 8:01PM


    “The Indians got it. I just wish Pakistani Secular-Liberals get it one day.”

    Why? Do you also have girls wearing clothes 3 sizes smaller than theirs in Pakistani bars? What should Pakistani SECULAR LIBERALS get?


  • indi
    Jul 10, 2013 - 8:04PM

    pathetc!!! bangalore is one of the most safe cities in india…..when mumbai ,delhi,hyderabad do not have any dress codes then y bangalore?? there are many pubs in mumbai where barwomen dance ….come to goa ….very liberal….very sad step…we are going pakistan way…even though there are no bar woman in pakistan….i wonder if theres a bar alsoRecommend

  • indi
    Jul 10, 2013 - 8:16PM

    @Water Bottle:
    good one!!! i din understand it either….i regularly see the elites and celebs of pakistan in traditional gowns…. perhaps he is referring to the rare case of veena malik who doesnt dare go back


  • Durrani
    Jul 10, 2013 - 8:53PM

    @Water Bottle:
    I understand the motives, but the onus shouldn’t be on the women, it should be on the men and it should be the responsibility of the bar owners and police to protect the women.


  • Vikas
    Jul 10, 2013 - 9:09PM

    Much better than BURqa.


  • Water Bottle
    Jul 10, 2013 - 9:17PM


    “I understand the motives, but the onus shouldn’t be on the women, it should be on the men and it should be the responsibility of the bar owners and police to protect the women.”

    That’s interesting.

    Because, in the first place it is not the women who want to dress like that. Trust me, no women in an Indian bar would want to dress like that. They are forced into dressing that way by the bar-owners.

    Even now, the onus is not on the women.

    Because women will be happy to follow the new code. The unhappy people are the bar-owners.

    Do you understand the irony here?

    As far as the police, I have already mentioned their problems.


  • gp65
    Jul 10, 2013 - 10:52PM

    @Water Bottle: Thank you for your thoughtful posts on this subject. Provided me more insight into the issue than I previously had.

    As for those making comparisons with Taliban – do you guys even think before you write. Could there even be a woman employed as a bar woman in a Taliban regime?Recommend

  • ashar
    Jul 11, 2013 - 12:13AM

    This is the reality liberal dont understand no matter they are from India or Pakistan. So, where is the so called freedom of expression, guys, they are expressing themselves then why this mullahism we see in hindus.


  • Parvez
    Jul 11, 2013 - 12:28AM

    It’s always the first step in the wrong direction that starts a journey down the slippery slope………. once started it’s hard and painful to stop.


  • Gp65
    Jul 11, 2013 - 6:23AM

    @ashar: These girls are employed in a bar. They are working in a completely different part of the country to earn their liing. They will work until late in the night serving customers who may be drunk and they are being asked to wear shalwar kameez or trousers and shirt. This is mullahism? In any case why are you inserting religion in this thing? There was no religious edict. More likely he neighbors complained and the raids were carried out under the prevention of immoral activities act. Where is the comparison with the situation in Pakistan?

    @Parvez, I too am concerned about the slippery slope concept that you refer to. At the same time the point made by @water bottle also has merit. If this regulation is akin to regulating minimum wages to prevent exploitation of the women in the labour force, I am all for it. If this is some moral brigade in overdrive, it is problematic. While there are crazies in India also, by and large the judges are quite rational. Given that this is a court judgment, I am guessing that the judgment may have been leaning towards preventing exploitation of these women. I remember 15-20 years back women could not be employed beyond 7:00 pm under India’s Shops and establishment act. But then the nature of employment market underwent change. With a lot of IT and call center jobs requiring late hours, laws evolved to accommodate the reality along with safeguards such as transportation would be provided by employer etc. If the girls actually are dressing this way by choice you can be sure the judgment will be appealed.

    This current situation is similar to a Haryana khap panchayat (similar to your jirga) had ruled that girls from that illage couldn’t wear jeans after the Delhi gang rape. Courts threw that out and restored women’s right to dress as they choose. Still a little concerned about the decision but wanted to provide some texture to the situation.Recommend

  • RAW is WAR
    Jul 11, 2013 - 6:33AM

    i never find these kind of news in Indian media…


  • Arindom
    Jul 11, 2013 - 6:34AM

    I protest – this is gross discrimination against women’s

    1) right to work
    2) right to dress

    The Indian High Courts are full of fuddy-duddy villager judges who still wear wigs and go on summer and winter vacations, have pending cases that go decades back and many are also corrupt. If anything, this case calls for cleaning up the courts…..


  • indi
    Jul 11, 2013 - 8:06AM

    @Parvez: u think so??? u think wrong…..first of all bangalore is one city example…..second the rule hardly matters coz i have seen most of the bar girls in bangalore in trousers and t shirt…..third dress codes are in bars of usa and uk too…..i agree that its a wrong decision to not allow bar girls wear skirts especially when other cities allow its is still better than fatwa against co education in pak….. :)


  • Ashvinn
    Jul 11, 2013 - 10:45AM

    @Water Bottle:
    I am from Bangalore I can vouch for whatever has been said by you about woman bartenders is mostly true. Also I would like to highlight that women or men are drawn to these jobs because of better pay at least in Bangalore. Since there are other jobs in which you can earn at least 30000 INR if your qualified and have a good English skill and 1 or 2 years work experience.Although 30 k may not allow one to have good life style, …….as such aspirations of people have changed ………we have smart phones small cars and expensive holidays international brands…… So the problem is of greed from both sides employer and employee


  • Prabhjyot Singh Madan
    Jul 12, 2013 - 1:33PM

    Why should a woman have to take this step about clothes as directed by the authorities. The authorities should catch the perpetrators who think women are otherwise.I am happy that I live in Bengal with no bjp influences. Rab rakha


  • Np
    Jul 13, 2013 - 7:04AM

    @Prabhjyot Singh Madan:
    Maybe ou missed the memo Sir. Karnataka has a Congress government now. There is no indication of any BJP MLA being involved.


  • Jul 14, 2013 - 1:46AM

    So, when men drink and smoke in a bar, it’s all right.
    But when women drink and smoke in a bar, it’s “debauched” and unacceptable?
    Really? Does anyone else see the patriarchal hypocrisy going on here?


  • Marconi Darwin
    Jul 16, 2013 - 5:23AM

    @Water Bottle: This is batshit insane. The police should be spending more time guarding these women, than attacking them for the sole reason that criminals might attack them


  • Sep 4, 2013 - 11:11PM

    Awesome issues right here. I’m incredibly grateful to see ones content. Thanks lots that i’m writing about forward to contact you actually. Can you make sure you decline us a mail?Recommend

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