When the glass ceiling is being broken everywhere, should the drinking glass be a ceiling? Sound incredible but the Supreme Court of India has just concluded hearing arguments on whether women should be “permitted” to serve as bartenders in bars, hotels and restaurants in New Delhi.
In January 2006, acting on a petition filed by the Hotel Association of India, the Delhi High Court had quashed Section 30 of the Punjab Excise Act, which barred the employment of women in places where liquor is served. But the Delhi government had approached the Supreme Court stating that the decision to bar women was “meant to ensure safety and dignity of women as well as of young men of impressionable age group”.
Questions: The Jessica Lal case is still fresh in memory, of course, but should women be barred from serving as bartenders? And who should decided that, men or women? Is “safety and dignity” just a figleaf for male chauvinism if not outright sexism? Or is the sight of women serving alcohol an affront to “Indian culture”? Is a woman not free to choose her calling in the 21st century? And is the government not duty-bound to provide the safety that women need at the workplace instead of shutting doors?