Entry level legal barriers to women’s employment are one of the key factors contributing to reduced female labour force participation in any country. The Women, Business, and Law annual report of 2023 brought out by the World Bank highlights that “Equal treatment of women under the law is associated with larger numbers of women entering and remaining in the labour force, rising to managerial positions, and becoming intellectual and political leaders.” (Women, Business and the Law 2023, n.d.)
The study focuses on the Kerala Abkari Act 1967, Kerala Abkari Shops Disposal Rules 2002, and the corresponding Liquor Licence under the Foreign Liquor Rules 1953, and examines the approach towards the employment of women in this sector. Women are prohibited from working in any capacity to serve liquor in those liquor-licenced establishments where consumption is allowed on the premises. Despite the Kerala High Court Judgement in 2014 allowing women to work in any capacity in FL 3 licensed bar hotels, our study shows that women are not recruited as bartenders in Kerala, and there are few women waitresses in these establishments. The reason cited by the hotel management is the fear of enforcement by the excise department, the restrictive provision disallowing women’s employment under the Foreign Liquor Rules 1953 that still remains in the statute. The law has not been repealed, regardless of the High Court’s judgement.