Supreme Court rules against Bollywood union ban on women make-up artists

I posted recently about the challenge to the Bollywood union’s ban on women make up artists. The Supreme Court in India has now ruled that this ban is illegal (but in India labour laws are still among the most restrictive in the world though the new Modi government is beginning to address them). The court has given the union one week to delete their own rule restricting women and has assured the petitioners that if the union does not, the Court will.

Indian Express:

The 59-year-old practice in the Indian film industry that bars women from being classified as make-up artists is set to end with the Supreme Court stating on Monday that it would not allow this “constitutionally impermissible discrimination” to continue.

In the film industry, only men are allowed to become make-up artists while women are classified as hairdressers. The trade unions say this is to ensure that the men are not deprived of work.

“How can this discrimination continue? We will not permit this. It cannot be allowed under our Constitution. Why should only a male artist be allowed to put make-up? How can it be said that only men can be make-up artists and women can be hairdressers? We don’t see a reason to prohibit a woman from becoming a make-up artist if she is qualified,” said a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and U U Lalit.

“You better delete this clause on your own. Remove this immediately. We are in 2014, not in 1935. Such things cannot continue even for a day,” the court told the Cine Costume Make-up Artists and Hair Dressers Association (CCMAA). The court said the film industry, as a unit, could not be allowed to prolong this “gender bias”.

The court was hearing a petition by Charu Khurana and other women make-up artists, who were rebuffed by the CCMAA when they sought make-up artist cards. Khurana qualified from the Cinema Make-up School, California, but her application for membership was rejected by the CCMAA in 2009 because she is a woman.

The bench directed the body to come back with a “positive response” within a week. Khurana’s counsel, Jyotika Kalra, complained that Maharashtra’s union refused to delete the clause even after a state government order. “Don’t worry. If they don’t do it this time, we will order deletion,” assured the bench.

In the meantime the new Modi government has initiated moves to rationalise some of India’s archaic and restrictive labour laws:

India’s labour laws are restrictive in nature and hurt investments in the manufacturing sector. The Industrial Disputes Act (1947) has rigid provisions such as compulsory and prior government approval in the case of layoffs, retrenchment and closure of industrial establishments employing more than 100 workers. This clause applies even when there is a good reason to shut shop, or worker productivity is seriously low.

The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act (1970) states that if the job content or nature of work of employees needs to be changed, 21 days’ notice must be given. The changes also require the consent of the employees, and this can be tricky.

While the right of workers to associate is important, the Trade Union Act (1926) provides for the creation of trade unions where even outsiders can be office-bearers. This hurts investor faith and restricts economic growth.

Rigid labour laws discourage firms from trying to introduce new technology, requiring some workers to be retrenched. This deters FDI because of the fear that it would not be possible to dismiss unproductive workers or to downsize during a downturn. Hence getting FDI into export-oriented labour-intensive sectors in India has not been fully achieved.

In contrast, China has succeeded in attracting FDI to export-oriented labour-intensive manufacturing, in part because of flexible labour laws such as the contract labour system implemented in 1995. Whereas in India, employers have taken to hiring workers on contract outside the institutional and legislative ambit, resulting in informalisation of the labour market. This hampers worker well-being. ……

To undo the malady in India’s labour market, some changes have recently been initiated in the three acts that largely govern India’s labour market: the Factories Act (1948), the Labour Laws Act (1988) and the Apprenticeship Act (1961). Amendments to some restrictive provisions of all these acts have been cleared by the Cabinet and are set to be tabled in Parliament. Key changes proposed include dropping the punitive clause that calls for the imprisonment of company directors who fail to implement the Apprenticeship Act of 1961.

The Government is also going to do away with a proposed amendment to the Act that would mandate employers to absorb at least half of its apprentices in regular jobs.

In order to provide flexibility to managers and employers, the amendment to the Factories Act includes doubling the provision of overtime from 50 hours a quarter to 100 hours in some cases and from 75 hours to 125 hours in others involving work of public interest. This is seen by some as being anti-labour as it imposes greater working hours without ensuring their security and welfare. …..

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