New law bans ‘obscene’ dance in Mumbai

Maharashtra state government in India is trying to ban dancing that it considers ‘obscene’. The draft bill would affect Mumbai, India’s largest city, which is home to thousands of bars, hotels and restaurants that hire female dancers to perform for customers.

The bill could also affect performing arts companies and, potentially, the Bollywood film industry that is based there. This is because the wording of the draft bill is very vague, defining obscene dancing as: ‘that which has been choreographed only with the intention to arouse sexual feelings among spectators,’ or, ‘has sexually suggestive moves.’

Since both these definitions are entirely subjective there has been some question as to how they will be enforced. Veena Thadani, who represents the Dance Bar Owners’ Association, pointed out that all dances are already cleared in advance: ‘If the censor board, which is a government arm, has cleared the gestures and clothing, where is the question of objection?’

People who break the law could receive a INR1,000,000 (€13,300) fine, a three-year prison sentence or both. Dance bars are already outlawed in any location within one kilometre of any registered educational institution or religious place or in any areas defined as ‘residential’.

The draft bill will first go to a committee before it is voted on by the state legislature.

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