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Last Updated:  Thursday, 6 March, 2003, 20:57 GMT
Should Asian women have the freedom to wear what they like?
Women around the world will be marking International Women's Day on March 8.

Whether it's how they live their lives or simply how they dress, the issue of choice has always been at the centre of women's rights campaigns.

In India many middle class women are increasingly turning to Western styles of dress.

But some people feel women in the public eye, such as broadcasters, teachers or politicians, have a responsibility to uphold their culture and wear the appropriate form of dress.

There is also the fear that traditional Asian styles could eventually disappear altogether with the increasing influence of western fashions.

So should 21st century Asian women have the freedom to wear what they like? Tell us what you think.

A World Today debate on this subject was broadcast on BBC World Service Radio on Thursday 6 March.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Yes, all women should have the right to wear whatever they want, but so should men. Western males are expected and obliged to wear collar and ties in the workplace, and the recent court case which declared that men are required to wear such clothes because it is the conventional image, proves this. I think we should stop thinking about freedom in terms of gender and realize that we are all oppressed and that we all live in one form of tyranny or another.
Mick, UK

Women are getting bolder and freer in their dress styles
Ram, India
I think there's a good deal of hypocrisy on the part of men who say that culture/tradition must be upheld. It's more often the women who quietly uphold all the traditions, while men conveniently adopt western ways and then stand up to give lectures about culture. I think women are getting bolder and freer in their dress styles. But I don't think the western world can impose their ideas on Asians. Things are changing on their own accord and we have our own cultural limitations to work through. But things are changing for the better in terms of freedom for women.
Ram, India

Nowhere in the world do men, nor women, have the freedom to wear exactly what they want. All societies have norms of decency and appropriateness in dress that are enforced by law, or imposed on individuals by social convention.
Julian Symes, UK

I am an American male of East-Indian background. Of course women should have the right to wear what they want. Why do men always make the decisions for them? People in very cold climates wear a lot of clothing and those in tropical climates wear less for obvious reasons. Women should not be made uncomfortable and wear excessive clothing just because men can't keep their eyes to themselves.
Sri Shan, USA

Just because some women wear saris and other traditional garb, this does not mean that they are being oppressed! My mother has the freedom to wear anything she wants to in the US but she still insists that the sari is what she feels the most comfortable in! If some women choose otherwise, then they should have the freedom to wear as they please.
Bijaya, USA/Nepal

Many do not have the same freedom
Ires, India
Living in a city I have the freedom to wear what I prefer. However this is modulated by who I am meeting or what I will do so that I blend in and not look incongruous. That is my choosing. However I know that many do not have the same freedom and the most vociferous of the opponents are men who talk of "tradition "and "upholding culture" while wearing western-style shirts instead of kurtas or trousers instead of dhotis!
Ires, India

We live in a world run by people who have Stone Age views. It is about time women stood up to this and showed them that this is an age where we can wear what we like, and be proud of it.
Jane, Ireland

In my personal view nicely covered and dressed holds far more charm and mystery than the one who has laid bare everything for anyone and everyone to see. If it's about freedom then why don't men walk around showing off their bodies?
Sumair, Netherlands

The key is freedom of choice
Ajit, USA/India
Women should have absolute freedom to dress as they want. They do not need patronising notions about "tradition and culture". Men can, in turn, choose to show preference for "traditional" or "modern/Western" dress by dating or marrying women who cater to their preference. The key is freedom of choice.
Ajit, USA/India

Some western women's clothing fashions are ridiculous and have a limited use, even in western cultures. Western clothing that covers a woman body, down past her knees and elbows is acceptable in most cultures, is most suitable for business, and can be both elegant and fashionable. Saris are beautiful for evening wear.
Louise, Sydney, Australia

The social reality in India is that women do not have the freedom to wear what they want and that's sad. All these meek excuses like 'but they should dress in an appropriate way...' etc are nothing but an effort to hide a reality which does not allow women freedom of choice.
Tridiv Borah, Germany/India

Forcing women to do something against their will, even if it is only with regards to clothing, is a thing of the past
Hayley, Johannesburg, South Africa
Absolutely. We are in the 21st century. Women have equal rights to men. No one should dictate to us what we should wear. Forcing women to do something against their will, even if it is only with regards to clothing is a thing of the past. Women have great compassion, sincerity and intellect. I think that they can choose which clothes they wish to wear!
Hayley, Johannesburg, South Africa

The people in India have total freedom in what they want to wear. However, blindly copying the western way is pretty shallow and self degrading. Indians have enough pride in their culture. Colourful Indian dresses are specially unique.
Sharad, USA/India

Should we have the right to tell them what to do?
Grant, USA

Of course women should have freedom in deciding what they want to wear or on any other issue. But they should dress in an appropriate way, keeping in mind tradition and culture. The Indian way of dressing has some uniqueness and some purpose in it. They should draw a balance with what's comfortable for their work and their important and special role in upholding the traditional Indian family structure.
Pratap, USA/India

South Asia Debate
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