India: Dance bars facilitate prostitution

Prasad Ramamurthy and Bhupen Patel

Dance bars in Mumbai have become outlets for cheap sex, some even doubling up as brothels. It is a switch that bar owners seem to have accepted without too much reluctance.

Talk to any bar owner or dancer and you are bound to hear the well-practised pitch for the lifting of the ban on dancing in bars.

''When the bars were open we'd earn more. Now that they have shut, they trouble us. The police say show your identity card to prove you are a singer," said a bar owner.

''We are five brothers and sisters. My mother and my aunt all live together. I am the only earning member. All these years I've worked at the dance bars and we were fine. I would earn Rs 10,000 a month and we'd manage. Now we can barely make ends meet,'' said a former bar dancer.

Candid statements however, are made off camera.

''Bars and pick up joints are separate. The government knows about the pick up joints. Bars entertain, there is no prostitution here. We just sell entertainment,'' said Vikas, Owner, Utsav Bar.

But rooms are readily available at the bar itself or at hotels and lodges not too far from the bar. Ask any waiter or valet outside a bar and he'll tell you where to go.

NDTV: How do I contact you?

Security guard: Come tomorrow. I will give you my number. But the girls won't go to Bhandup. You will have to take them to a lodge in Thane.

NDTV: Are there many lodges in Thane?

Security guard: Yes there are. There is Madan Maharaja and Kinara.

The bar owners say that not all the bars are pick-up joints but conversations with the waiters prove that many bars facilitate prostitution in their premises. Some of them even offer cheaper rooms for customers if they pick up girls from there.

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