We are not security guards who just fold hands; we are bouncers and we break hands, if need be,” said the 30-year-old Mehr-un-Nisa Shaukat Ali, talking about the rise in the number of female bouncers in Delhi-NCR. The Sunday Guardian’ found that hotels, pubs and even private security agencies are rooting for an increasing number of female bouncers, courtesy the simultaneous increase in the number of women customers thronging these social hubs.
Nisa, who belongs to Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, is a bouncer at Social Cafe and Bar in south Delhi’s bustling Hauz Khas Village. Nisa has been in this profession for a decade and claims to be the front-runner among the growing army of female bouncers in the city.
“I am one of the first few female bouncers in the country. Over the years we have grown into a kind of army. But it wasn’t easy. The first employer I went to laughed at me and showed me the door. But I didn’t give up. I took some time off to build my body and came back and conquered my space. Since then I have been motivating many women to explore this employment opportunity because work has no gender. If you want it, get it,” Nisa told this reporter.
All across Delhi-NCR, many women have not only broken labour-stereotypes by entering into this male bastion, but also are changing the entire landscape of the private security industry.
A female bouncer’s typical shift at a nightclub starts from 8 pm and goes on until as late as 2 am. Their job is to stay vigilant, resolve fights among customers, stop drug abuse in women’s washrooms, look out for men misbehaving with women and throw them out, and drop drunk women to their cars or taxis.
This trend, which started with the hospitality sector, has now extended to weddings and other events including IPL matches. Bouncers are also used by private agencies that provide security cover to celebrities and corporates.
“I see this is as women’s emancipation. They are firmly consolidating their feet in the security agencies. Not just pubs, corporates hire them too to ensure safety of their female staff. Even parents hire them to keep a watch on their teenage girls,” said Anubhav Khiwani, owner of the Delhi-based Denetim Services.
Khiwani added that there is a heavy demand for female bouncers in weddings and private parties.
“The demand is so huge that many times we run out of female bouncers or personal security officers (PSO),” Khiwani said.
Most of these female bouncers come either from the less affluent areas of the city or belong to the small towns. Interestingly, unlike in other professions where there is an apparent gender-bias in terms of wages, female bouncers are paid more than their male counterparts.
While the salaries of both male and female bouncers are the same in pubs, during events and weddings, women tend to earn more. According to the approximate figures shared by the security agencies this newspaper contacted, male bouncers get Rs 800-Rs 1,200 per shift, whereas female bouncers’ wages range from Rs 1,500-Rs 2,000 per shift. On an average, a female bouncer earns anything between Rs 25,000 to Rs 35,000 a month.
“Clients have often appreciated the work of the female bouncers. The security agencies tend to incentivise these women to maintain their network of female bouncers,” a representative of a Delhi-based security agency told this newspaper.
RISE IN DEMAND
A rise in the number of women frequenting nightclubs and bars has necessitated the need to hire female bouncers to make these places more “women friendly”. As a result, many young and middle-aged women are taking up private security services as a legitimate employment opportunity.
“We all know the male crowd in New Delhi. Women are scared to go out and enjoy themselves because of them. But when they know that a particular pub has a female bouncer, they choose that place over another. More and more bar owners are realising this and that is why we are growing in number,” said Prema, a female bouncer at Elf Cafe & Bar in Hauz Khas.
While there is no study to quantify this growth, the security agencies estimate that in the past few years the number of female bouncers has seen a three-fold rise.
“There has been a phenomenal growth in the number of female bouncers. Earlier employers had inhibitions, but now women have proved their potential in this field. Around seven years ago we had around 300 female bouncers, but now the number has increased to 4,000 plus,” Ravi Nair, country head, human resource and administration, TOPSGRUP, a leading Mumbai-based security company, told The Sunday Guardian.
Nair further noted that the rise in demand for female bouncers can be attributed to higher efficacy and the sincerity factor associated with the women.
“At work, women are generally more vigilant. Also, it becomes very difficult for male bouncers to handle women in pubs or ushering women during an event, or say an IPL match. Female bouncers come in very handy in such situations,” said Nair.
Seconding Nair’s view, Chanda, a female bouncer at ABC Reloaded in Hauz Khas, pointed out that female bouncers were more effective than their male counterparts in not just handling drunk women, but also in managing drunk men. “Rich drunk boys misbehave with male bouncers, making their job tougher. But they cannot do the same with female bouncers. Also there have been instances where drunken women have accused male bouncers of molestation. In view of this, pub owners use female bouncers to handle the situation,” claimed Chanda.
Security agencies and various pub owners unanimously told this newspaper that female bouncers are also effective in checking drug abuse in the pubs or at other events.
“Owners tell us to identify the junkies and stop them. Many times boys will hide a packet of marijuana or other high-end drugs in the bags of their female friends. Our job is to detect that and push these people out,” said 40-year-old Kamlesh, a female bouncer at ABC Reloaded. Kamlesh further said that they are always on the lookout for troublemakers and at the slightest sign of nuisance they take swift action. “We are women and we know the male gaze. We sense these troublemakers and keep a close watch on them. We are here to protect women from such men and we take our job very seriously as we have daughters back home,” Kamlesh added.
“We are women and we know the male gaze. We sense these troublemakers and keep a close watch on them. We are here to protect women from such men.”
NOT AN EASY JOB
With the increase in the number of female bouncers, there is a need to regulate the industry in terms of training and security of these bouncers.
Recalling an incident in which she was attacked by a man after her work hours, Nisa asserted that security agencies must provide a good training regime to female bouncers. She also said that there should be adequate security arrangements for them from the employers’ end.
“It’s not an easy job. One day a stranger followed me while I was going back home in an auto-rickshaw. I didn’t panic and acted as if I worked for the police. I fake-called a police inspector and asked him to send 10-15 constables to that location immediately. The guy got scared and ran away. But not everyone is trained to deal with such situations,” said Nisa.
Another female bouncer, Pooja said that while physical training was not a major requirement, it was their firmness and conflict-resolving technique that often came in handy.
“We hardly see a situation getting out of hand. Even if they do, we have our male colleagues to back us up. A firm and straight voice always does the trick. Security agencies should provide training to deal with various situations,” Pooja added. Commenting on the security aspect of the female bouncers, Khiwani said, “We never send female bouncers without the company of at least one male bouncer. Also, we make sure that the employer provides them a proper pick-up and drop facilities.”
Nair also claimed that TOPSGURU took utmost care of the security of the female bouncers. “We trace them from point-to-point. Our control room is in touch with them until they reach home safely,” he said.