Challenge to Bollywood union’s ban on women for make-up

It is nothing new that the modus operandi of a trade union is founded on discriminating against non-members. But a Bollywood trade union – the Cine Costume, Make-up Artists and Hair Dressers Association – has for the last 55 years forbidden women from being make-up artists or hair-dressers. But they are now being challenged in court and the Indian Supreme Court is expected to hand down its decision on August 26th.

The union’s defense – that allowing women into the profession would lead to all men losing their jobs – is particularly stupid. I expect the union will lose – as it should.

As an aside, the contemptuous attitude to women demonstrated by newly urbanised Indian youth is – I think – at least partially a consequence of the portrayal of women in Bollywood movies.

The National: Charu Khurana, 32, a make-up artist who trained at the Cinema Makeup School in Los Angeles in 2008 and returned to India with dreams of working in Bollywood. But Khurana found herself being confined to doing bridal make-up, fashion shows and commercials in New Delhi and unable to find work in Mumbai because the Cine Costume, Make-up Artists and Hair Dressers Association turned down her application in 2009.

“They rejected me, saying only men could work as make-up artists. It’s my basic human right to work in any field I wish. They can’t exclude women. I, too, have children and a family to support,” says Khurana.

Indignation prompted her to contact the New Delhi lawyer Jyotika Kalra, who took up the case and also asked the National Commission for Women – the state organisation that protects women’s rights – for support.

Kalra says she did not know whether to laugh or cry at the explanation she received from the Association.

“They wrote saying that the rule was intended to protect a man’s livelihood because, if women were allowed to do make-up, no actor would ever choose a man to do it. What kind of logic is that?” asks Kalra.

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