Playboy bunnies prompt hunger strike threat in Indian party town Goa

Right-wing local politician threatens hunger strike against bar he says demeans women

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 April, 2013, 3:50am

Already upset with Goa's growing reputation - possibly justified - for alcohol, drugs and sex, local politicians are taking up cudgels against the Playboy bar scheduled to open in India's prime tourist destination.

Michael Lobo of the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party plans to go on a hunger strike if the government allows the bar to open because he feels it will "defame" Goa and put off families.

"Playboy does nothing but lower the dignity of women. It treats them as commodities and the basic concept of Playboy is the entertainment of men by semi-naked women. We don't want this here," he said.

In a strange anomaly, Playboy magazine is banned in India. Yet PB Lifestyle, a Mumbai-based company licensed to market Playboy merchandise, plans to open 120 clubs, bars, and hotels in India over the next 10 years.

Lobo, who called Playboy "a byword for prostitution, vulgarity and decadence", is vocal in his opposition because the bar is opening in Candolim beach, which is in his constituency.

Other right-wing groups in Goa, whose affiliates elsewhere in India oppose Valentine's Day, couples holding hands in public, and women wearing jeans, are supporting his campaign.

"Indian culture is against nudity, and men and women drinking together. We don't want to be polluted by this western import," said Manoj Solanki, general secretary of the conservative Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (Hindu Awareness Society).

Dilip Parulekar, Goa's tourism minister, has not yet given PB Lifestyle a licence. The application has been pending for some months. But Lobo is worried that the company will receive it because the government has asked PB Lifestyle to pledge not to indulge in "vulgar, indecent activities that demean women" before it grants the licence.

When Playboy announced last year it was entering the Indian market, it said the Playboy bunnies would cater to Indian sensibilities by wearing outfits that showed much less flesh than the original bunny suit.

Playboy then unveiled a new-look costume for the "bunny girl" waitresses. The traditional skimpy corset has been replaced with a sari-inspired two-piece costume, comprising of a one-shoulder top, a bare midriff and a sheer, full-length skirt with a split. The ears, bow-ties and fluffy tails remain.

But Lobo is unimpressed. He says he has been heartened by the public response to his threat of a hunger strike. He said 1,000 people had promised to join him if the government grants the licence.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse