India's Supreme Court on Monday ordered the lifting of a ban on women working as makeup artists in the movie industry, ending a decades-long discriminatory practice.
India's film industry is among the most prolific in the world with nearly 1,500 films produced annually, most of them in Bollywood, as the Mumbai Hindi film industry is called.
The Cine Costume Makeup Artists and Hair Dressers Association had an unofficial ban on women as makeup artists, though they could work as hairdressers to the stars.
Judge Dipak Misra also struck down a regulation that people had to live in a particular city or town for five years to become a member of the association.
The court order came on a petition by makeup artist Charu Khurana, whose case was supported by the National Commission for Women, a state organization that protects women's rights.
Khurana trained at the Cinema Makeup School in Los Angeles but said she found it impossible to get work as a makeup artist in Bollywood. When film producers wanted to hire her, the CCMAA objected, saying she could not flout the nearly 6-decade-old tradition.
Khurana told reporters that the CCMAA rejected her application for a makeup artist identification card because she was a woman.
"I wanted to fight back. I wanted to earn a livelihood in the field that I have been trained," Khurana said. "The film fraternity knew about this unconstitutional practice for so many years, but no one resisted it."
Misra heard arguments from both sides last week and was outspoken in his criticism.
"How can it be said that only men can be makeup artists and women can be hairdressers? We don't see a reason to prohibit a woman from becoming a makeup artist if she is qualified," Misra said.
In telling the association to remove the gender clause, the judge said: "We are in 2014, not in 1935. Such things cannot continue even for a day."
The association said it was only trying to ensure that male makeup artists were not deprived of work in the film industry.
Film stars welcomed the ruling, saying male makeup artists should not feel threatened with the court's order. "If makeup artists are good at their job, they will be hired, no matter whether they are male or female," actress Sonam Kapoor said.