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Indian women trade the sari for the short skirt

The Story

In a short skirt and backless top, Vidhi dances, drinks and smokes to the throbbing beat of club music. In India, she's the face of liberation for young women, a group that is embracing modernity by dating freely, rejecting traditional clothing and refusing arranged marriages. Meanwhile, in a dismal slum, tradition weighs all too heavily on Divaliben, a mother of four girls whose husband has all but abandoned her because she has not yet borne him a son. This 2004 clip from CBC Radio's Dispatches contrasts the lives of two women in modern Mumbai. 

Medium: Radio
Program: Dispatches
Broadcast Date: May 26, 2004
Reporter: Piya Chattopadhyay
Duration: 7:02
Photo by Piya Chattopadhyay

Did You know?

• Traditional practice in India demands that when a woman marries, a dowry - a large payment of cash, goods or livestock - must be paid out by her family to the groom's family. Girls are therefore viewed as an expensive liability, especially in poorer families.

• Ever since the advent of prenatal gender determination, via ultrasound or a blood test, many Indian families have chosen abortion rather than giving birth to a girl. The Lancet, the British medical journal, calculated in 2006 that such abortions resulted in 500,000 fewer girls being born in India each year for the previous two decades.


• India outlawed sex-selective abortions in 1994 but the law was often not enforced. Ultrasound technicians, though barred from revealing the sex of the fetus, would give parents-to-be broad hints such as distributing blue or pink candies. Selective abortion was so common in 2008 that the Indian prime minister decried it as "a national shame" that was "inhuman, uncivilized and reprehensible."


• The city of Mumbai was known as Bombay until the 1995, when its name was formally changed to more accurately reflect local preferences. Some residents, however, still call it Bombay.



India: Colonial Past, Global Future more