BANGALORE: Cheers! That's what many women's groups here are saying to a Karnataka High Court verdict allowing women to work in pubs, pointing out that it is a job like any other as long as safety and security are ensured.
"If women are showcasing their skills in various fields, what is wrong in allowing them to work in bars with adequate safety and security?" asked Donna Fernandes, a member of Vimochana, an organisation working for the right of women to work with dignity.
"The high court in its judgment has upheld the fundamental right to work enshrined in the Indian constitution. We all welcome the judgement.
"Ensure the safety and security of women who work in places where liquor is served. If that is ensured, then there is no problem with women working in bars," Donna said.
Echoing her was K.S. Vimala of the Janavadi Mahila Sanghatane: "In the name of safety and security of women, the right of women to work could not be denied.
"Sexual harassment of women is happening in other work places. That does not mean, we'll stop them from working altogether. What is needed is proper safety and security for women at their work places."
Justice D.V. Shylendra Kumar of the Karnataka High Court on Wednesday allowed women to work in bars and pubs, but with adequate security. He quashed rule 9 of the Karnataka Excise Act 1965 prohibiting women from serving liquor at public places as "unconstitutional".
The liquor industry says bartending is a lucrative job.
"A beginner can get Rs.20,000 per month and celebrity bartenders earn up to Rs.50,000 in the country," a popular pub owner said requesting anonimity.
Several hospitality and hotel management institutes, like PES (Peoples Education Society) Institute of Hotel Management and Christ College in Bangalore, even offer bartending as a course subject.
A number of women students are currently undergoing training in bartending at these and other institutions that offer the course.
"There are over 50,000 restaurants selling liquor in the state. If one woman is employed in each, that will easily help thousands of women get jobs," said Naren Velliappa, director of Zero Gravity, a city-based bar.
C. Ramesh, proprietor of Chef-Inn Regency who was one of the petitioners challenging the ban on employing women in pubs, said: "Women are quite skilful in mixing liquors and we all welcome the court's judgment."
He claimed bars would not employ women only to add glamour quotient. "It will be skill, not looks, that will be counted while employing female bartenders."
"We will also take care of the security of our women employees and give them a safe environment to work and earn their livelihood," added Ramesh.
Shohthong Neithiem, a trained bartender and a petitioner, said: "I am a trained bartender and should be allowed to work. I am happy to hear the verdict. I will work in a place where I will get a safe environment to practise my skills."
Bangalore Police said bars and pub owners should take measures to ensure the safety of women employees.
"It is the duty of employers to provide a secure work environment to their employees. Police too will see to it that women working in bars do not get harassed by anyone," M.R. Pujar, additional commissioner of police, Bangalore city (Law and Order), told IANS.
However, senior police officials acknowledge that there would be instances of harassment when men get drunk in the bars and pubs.
"We have seen many cases of women being targeted by men under the influence of alcohol. If, we allow women to work in bars, then one can easily imagine crimes against women increasing," cautioned a police official on condition of anonymity.
The state excise department is not planning to challenge the order, though Karnataka Law Minister S. Suresh Kumar said: "We will take a decision after studying the verdict."