Ban on cross-gender massages yet to be enforced: Delhi government tells HC



NEW DELHI: The Delhi government has told the Delhi High Court that its guidelines banning cross-gender massages services are yet to be notified and enforced in the city.

The counsel for the Delhi government also told the court that as of September 20, all the spas were permitted to run on their business on the basis of the existing guidelines which cast no such prohibition on cross-gender massages.

Justice Rekha Palli, who was hearing a plea by Association of Wellness Ayurveda & Spa against the prohibition, said that in view the stand, no interim orders were called for at this stage and granted four weeks’ time to the Delhi government to file an affidavit explaining the reasons which propelled the respondents to ban such services.

Counsel for the Delhi government said that the guidelines prohibiting cross-gender massages were yet to be notified and assured that no action would thus be taken against spa owners on that basis till they are notified as per law and incorporated in the Health Trade Licenses issued to the spas under Section 417 of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957.

Claiming that the decision to ban cross-gender massage was a “well considered decision”, the counsel sought time from court to file an affidavit explaining the reasons.

Counsel for the municipal corporations also said that the guidelines banning such services have not yet been notified and not being applied to any of the spas here.

“Keeping in view the stand taken by the respondents that the impugned guidelines are not being enforced as on date, no interim orders are called for at this stage. The respondents will, however, remain bound by the statement made today before this Court,” said the court in its September 20 order and posted the next date of hearing on November 9.

In its petition filed through lawyers Indu Kaul and Mani Kaul, the petitioner has claimed that the ban was unconstitutional and in violation of Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.

It claimed that relying on the ban, coercive action was already being taken against various Spas in Delhi by the law enforcement agencies.

“Every industry, workplace and businesses have some bad apples but that doesn’t mean that every spa centre across the state is running a prostitution and human trafficking racket,” said the petition which has asserted that spa centres spend a “huge amount on training and skill up-gradation” of their massage therapists and the structure of their functioning cannot be altered after the trade licence has been issued by the authorities.

It said there are several places where men and women work together, like gyms and yoga centres, and singling out spas was not reasonable.

Further, it stated that cross-gender treatment has been “part of the traditional massage practices” and assuming prostitution to be only in the “heterosexual domain” is illogical.

On the last occasion, the Delhi government counsel had stated that the guidelines prohibiting cross-gender massages, evolved by a Lieutenant Governor-appointed task force, were in relation to the grant of the health trade licences and were yet to be notified as law.

“It (the guidelines) is yet to culminate into a law. It is just an internal document. It cannot be implemented right now,” said the counsel.

It added that a task force was constituted pursuant to a reference received by the Lieutenant Governor from the Delhi Commission for Women on the working of spas.

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