Ban on Bollywood women make-up artists quashed by court

MUMBAI (AFP) - India's Supreme Court Monday quashed a union rule which for decades sought to prevent women working as make-up artists in the country's Hindi film industry known as Bollywood.

Judges banned the discrimination on film sets along gender lines, following a petition launched by women against the Cine Costume Make-up Artists and Hair Dressers Association.

The petitioners said the group had denied them identification cards for their work because they were women - a provision designed to protect the jobs of male make-up artists.

Describing it as "impermissible and illegal", the court struck down the clause of the association, which covers the western state of Maharashtra - home to Bollywood.

Traditionally women could only work as hair stylists, a rule that director Zoya Akhtar described as "absolutely ridiculous".

"There are lots of talented female (make-up) artists who should be allowed to work," she told AFP.

While some women managed to work in make-up before the ruling, Akhtar said doing so could "create complications" and the union could take objection and disrupt a shoot if they found out.

One European make-up artist working in Bollywood, declining to be named in case of repercussions, told AFP that she had often had to hide in vanity vans or elsewhere during raids.

She said the industry was "so male-dominated" and accused the unions of "exploiting rules to make money".

Puneet Saini, a freelance make-up artist, said she was "very excited" by the court ruling, although she questioned whether unions would "find loopholes to continue to harass us".

She also said her biggest troubles had been faced not in Bollywood but in southern Indian film industries, where she had been forced off sets.

"I know a lot of my peers have also faced this kind of humiliation and producers have been pressurised to hire the sons of old-time male make-up artists."

The court also struck down a clause that requires five-year residency in Maharashtra to become a registered make-up artist or hairdresser in Bollywood.

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