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Friday, Nov 22, 2019

Spa goers rejoice as HC gives temporary relief to spa centres

South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) will issue a ‘mandatory advisory’ to all spas and massage parlours in its jurisdiction asking them “not to provide cross-gender massage services to customers” in view of reports of sex rackets running there.

more-lifestyle Updated: Oct 06, 2019 17:57 IST
Naina Arora
Naina Arora
Hindustan Times
For some a relaxing massage that soothes the muscles is a necessity, for others it is an indulgence that rejuvenates.
For some a relaxing massage that soothes the muscles is a necessity, for others it is an indulgence that rejuvenates.(Getty Images)

For some a relaxing massage that soothes the muscles is a necessity, for others it is an indulgence that rejuvenates. A weekend spa package is also a common gift now, “that renews the spirit, relaxes the sore muscles and revitalises the soul,” says 34-year-old Supriya Gupta, who is a spa regular. However, Supriya and many Delhiites were miffed when Delhi authorities shut down many spa centres alleging, among other things, that many centres and those offering cross-gender massages run prostitution rings. The spa association approached the High Court and got temporary relief to run such facilities if they meet certain conditions.

And that has the city dwellers feeling better.

“I am glad that the HC has given this order. I’d be able to enjoy my spa time without feeling judged. It’s horrible to think cross-gender massages is immoral. My husband and I love couple massages, so, I opt for an all-female masseur duo for us because I am more comfortable with a woman in our room than a man. And shutting down spas is not acceptable to me! It’s as necessary as going to a gym. these are also well-being centres,” says Surbhi, a resident of central Delhi. Agrees Supriya, “My friends had a spacation at a spa centre in the city for my bachelorette party. And one of my friends had her back totally jacked. It was all in knots, so she asked for a deep-tissue massage and asked for a male therapist because she needed pressure. So, if all the spa facilities are coloured with the same stroke, it’s unfair. Also, I think a stand like this by government bodies will make it look like a spa treatment is immoral kinda thing. They should totally check places which might be running rings that they are alleging, but spare the honest ones yar..”

Likewise the spa owners are happy, too. “It’s a big relief for us as spas in the city were facing harassment at the hands of the police and Municipal Corporation... This is absolutely unfair, you can’t take away our fundamental right to life and livelihood as enshrined in the Constitution of India,” says lawyer Kapil Chandna, representing the spa association, that took many government bodies to court. Here’s what happened:

Earlier this month, Swati Maliwal, chairperson of Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), claimed to have busted prostitution rings at some spas in West Delhi and the team also reportedly rescued nine girls from these spas. The Delhi authorities shut down many spas around the Capital alleging that these were running a sex racket. However, some of the spa owners around the city claimed that they were being harassed by Delhi Police, South Delhi Municipal Corporation, DCW, and some other government bodies.

Reportedly, the DCW office issued 15 guidelines for issuance of licenses to spa facilities, including total ban on cross-gender massages. So, multiple spa owners in the city took DCW, police and other parties to High Court. The latest developement, the court has passed an order saying that if the petitioners (spa owners) meet all the requirements for running the business establishments, they should not be unnecessarily harassed.

Chandana says, “Despite no laws to this effect, they are illegally closing the centres. There is no law yet which requires ID of the customers be taken by the spa centres or laws that restricts cross-gender massage.”

A member of the South Delhi Spa Association, not wishing to be named feels “whole industry should be not be looked at through the same lens”. She says, “ We don’t approve of such things, and hence went to the court for justice.“Cross-gender massage is not illegal at all and it’s not wrong. Even Chennai High Court has said that you can’t say cross-gender massage is banned. They are asking id cards of clients who are going to spas, which seems unfair. If she asks to hire no girls above 18 or to have no latch on doors, we are ok with that, too. I even agree with her sending people to check whether any wrong activities are happening in the spas. She can’t say everybody is wrong,” she adds.

Deepti Pathak, a corporate coach and a regular spa visitor, is against an outright prohibition or ban of anything, for it is akin to stigmatisation. “Painting all these establishments with the same brush is unfair. What the authorities should do is exercise proper control and scrutinize these operators before issuing them licences,” she says.

A female spa employee who has been working in Delhi for the last four years, feels: “Cross- gender spas is very common these days where men and women both work in the industry. Maine kabhi bhi yeh cheez nahin dekhi hain ki koi galat baat hui ho. Those spas where any wrong doing is happening, they should be stopped. Yeh galat hain ki ladke ko ladka hi karega aur ladki ko ladki hi massage karengi. I am not being made to work here by force. I need to work to run my house. Yahan koi galat mahual nahin hai. We get clients from all age groups who are suffering from depression, injuries and muscle aches. We are very professional people and trained.”

Raunak Mehta Sandhu, a a crew scheduling officer from Delhi, says, “Cross gender massage centres provide employment for many. While it is true that many sex rackets function under the guise of this, it is silly to moralize it. What should be monitored is whether or not women working there are being forced to work there. Exploitation should be stopped, but ban or shutting down is actually paternalistic and a result of our patriarchal mindset.”

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