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Indian Supreme Court Says Ban On Female Makeup Artists Is Discrimination

The world's largest film industry, by the number of movies produced, has barred women from working as makeup artists for nearly six decades. But that may be changing.

The country's Supreme Court said Monday that it wouldn't allow this "constitutionally impermissible discrimination" to go on.

The Indian Express newspaper reports that the country's film industry only allows men to become makeup artists. Women are classified as hairdressers, the newspaper said. The Cine Costume Make-up Artists & Hair Dressers Associations, the union that represents makeup artists, says the rule exists to ensure men aren't denied work.

"You better delete this clause on your own. Remove this immediately," a two-judge panel wrote. "We are in 2014, not in 1935. Such things cannot continue even for a day."

Here's the background to the case: Charu Khurana, U.S.-trained makeup artist, tried to get makeup artist cards from the CCMAA in 2009. The union rejected her membership because she was a woman. She and eight other women petitioned the court last year.

The Indian Express adds the judges told the union to return with a "positive response" within a week. But Khurana's lawyer noted that the union had refused to delete the clause even after an order from the government of the state of Maharashtra, which is home to Bollywood. The judges assured her that "if they don't do it this time, we will order deletion."

The BBC reports that even India's top directors and actors couldn't defy the ban. It adds:

"Producers who defied this rule had to pay hefty fines and artists were denied credits on the film titles. Women make-up artists were sometimes brought on the sets surreptitiously, hidden in mobile beauty salons known as vanity vans for fear that if the trade unions got wind of it the production would be brought to a halt.

"The livelihoods of thousands of women make-up artists have been affected. Instead of doing the work of their choice, they've been restricted mainly to weddings and fashion shows - but Bollywood is the bigger business to be in and the Supreme Court's move should finally end this gender bias."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.