The Indian Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned a ban by a film industry union on women make-up artists.
The ban had allowed women to work as hair-stylists but had kept make-up as the exclusive preserve of men since the first union for film industry employees was set up nearly sixty years ago in Mumbai.
Trades Union representatives had long maintained that the ban safeguarded the livelihood of men but Supreme Court judges declared the ban illegal.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court said this practice was a “constitutionally impermissible discrimination”.
“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?” Justices Dipak Misra and UU Lalit were quoted as saying.
A petition against the ban had been brought by nine women, led by Charu Khurana, a 32-year-old US-qualified make-up artist who had returned to India in 2008 only for her application to work in Bollywood to be turned down.
The Cine Costume, Make-Up Artists and Hair Dressers Association reportedly rejected her application saying “if women were allowed to do make-up, no actor would ever choose a man to do it”.
“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,” Khurana told reporters at the time of filing her petition.
Khurana also believes that many actresses would actually prefer women doing their make-up due to India’s “cultural sensibilities”, an argument that appears to support the opinion of Sharad Shekar, the president of the Union.
“We can’t let women work both as make-up artists and as hair stylists, it would put men at a disadvantage, so we have divided up the two jobs among men and women to be fair,” Shekhar argues.
Producers who ignored the rule were routinely slapped with heavy fines while some producers were reportedly forced to sneak in women make-up artists on to film sets.