Working womenWomen in entertainment sector need to be protected and accorded dignity
Women working in Nepal’s ‘entertainment’ sector have long been victims of exploitation. They lament that sexual abuse, police harassment, and poor and irregular pay are common. In 2008, the Supreme Court had issued a verdict and procedural guidelines to protect economic and sexual exploitation of women and girls working in the entertainment sector and to formulate a law to regulate the sector. Eight years have passed since then, but little has been done to implement the order.
According to the 2013 report titled ‘Nepal: Entertainment as Decent Work’ published by the Women Forum for Women in Nepal, the entertainment sector includes dance bars, massage parlours, cabin and dohori restaurants, among others.
These ‘men’s clubs’, whose purpose is to provide entertainment for their mostly-male clients, are generally a profitable business and a common sight around Kathmandu, particularly in Thamel. According to
government studies conducted in 2008, there were
nearly 1,200 massage parlours, dance bars and cabin restaurants in Kathmandu, employing nearly 50,000 workers, 80 percent of whom were women.
Still, such entertainment work is not fully recognised as work by the state or labour authorities. Due to the absence of concrete and clear laws regarding the entertainment business and rights of the workers involved, the women are exposed to sexual harassment, coerced into giving sexual favours to customers and denied their labour rights. Owners verbally agree on their salary, which varies from Rs1,500 to 6,000 per month, but in practice many women do not receive it at all or receive it late. Many also view the dance bars and
massage parlours as a smokescreen for alleged
Such social stigma attached to the industry also makes it difficult for the women to live with dignity. They are constantly shamed and named by many—from their landowners to the police. It is not that the women are unaware of the stigma of working in the business, but many take the job owing to a lack of other employment opportunities. With proper regulations, the government can at least make it less difficult for thousands of these women to earn their living in a dignified manner without the risk of being exploited.
If the state allows the entertainment sector to run, it has to protect the women working in it. In India, for instance, the Supreme Court has imposed certain conditions for granting licences to dance bars in Maharashtra. It is important for our government to have proper rules and regulations as to how the entertainment businesses can be registered and the rights of the workers protected. The Supreme Court guideline of 2008 has the much needed regulation for the sector, which the state should implement without delay. The entertainment sector is a growing one, and without proper laws, the state is just turning a blind eye to the injustices taking place right under its nose.