Delhi high court stays ban on cross-gender massage in spas – Times of India

Delhi high court stays ban on cross-gender massage in spas – Times of India

NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court on Thursday stayed the prohibition on cross-gender massage services in the city, saying there was no “reasonable connection” between the ban and preventing trafficking or prostitution at spas.
“I am of the prima facie view that this kind of absolute ban on cross-gender massage can’t be said to have any reasonable connection with the aim of the policy, which is to regulate the functioning of spas and ensure no illegal trafficking or prostitution takes place in the city,” Justice Rekha Palli noted.

The spas are a source of employment for many. A blanket ban to address the fact that some are operating illegally is akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The court has taken the right step.

The high court said though the authorities ought to regulate spa centres to check illegal activities, the policy to impose a ban was framed without any consultation with professionals involved in spa services.
Noting that only 400 out of 5,000 spas have valid licences, the high court directed Delhi Police and municipal corporations to carry out an inspection in their areas within one week and take appropriate steps to close all unlicensed spas. In case any illegality is found during the inspection, the police will register cases and immediately pass the information to the municipal bodies for action, the HC said.
The court was hearing a batch of petitions by owners of some spa centres and therapists challenging the Delhi government’s move to ban cross-gender massages and the consequent directions passed by the municipal corporations.
Meanwhile, Delhi government and Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) defended the policy, saying such a ban was meant to protect women and children from the menace of prostitution at the spa centres. DCW told the court it conducted extensive inspections, an independent inquiry and also interacted with young girls and women engaged in the trade and found that the provision under which spa centres permitted cross-gender massage was being grossly misused.
However, the high court said that a ban can’t be imposed suddenly without any consultation when petitioners have valid licences and added that it is also aware of the fact that the pandemic has affected their livelihoods.