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Last Updated: Monday, 18 June 2007, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Bridget Jones? She's got it easy
Love hearts

By Yasmeen Khan

Since when did skin shade, religion and the prospect of living with your in-laws become a concern for educated, career women looking for Mr Right? For British Asian females, who are facing a shrinking pool of eligible men, Bridget Jones had it easy.

I can personally vouch that for every miserable, white Bridget Jones

singleton out there, there is a brown Bridget having a worse time.

Many young British Asian women, be they Muslim, Sikh or Hindu, are struggling to find a life partner. Alongside their white peers they have delayed marriage, putting education and careers first.

Brown Bridgets, however, have more to moan about, working around religious and cultural limits leaves them with a small pond to fish in when it comes to finding their Mr Right.

Students
More Asian women are focusing on education and careers
Samina (not her real name) is 32-year-old lawyer in Manchester and her experiences are typical of many Asian women.

"My friend Sarah is white and we're both around the same age and single," she says. "But the difference is I want to find someone of the same faith, so I have a much smaller choice of men."

It's not just religion that Samina has to contend with.

"A lot of Asian men want you to move into their parental home, some because they love living at home and being looked after, some because in Asian culture it's the son's duty to look after ageing parents.

"I'm independent and successful and it's daunting to think I might have to up sticks and move to another town to move in with my in-laws as soon as I'm married."

Matchmakers

Statistics seem to be against Asian women too. The last census showed that more British Asian men are marrying outside of their ethnic group than British Asian women.

For Asian men the option to "marry out" is made easier by the fact that it is culturally, and in some cases religiously, less frowned upon to choose a partner outside of their faith than it is for Asian women.

Other men choose to marry a partner from their parents country of origin. In 2005 the government recorded just over 10,000 women coming to the UK from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh as part of a marriage.

Yasmeen Khan
Yasmeen Khan has seen how difficult the dating game is
Whatever the reasons are for marrying a woman from "back home", it leaves an even smaller pool of men for British Asian women to fish in.

In the scramble to find the perfect Asian husband, women are using every tool available to them.

The choice ranges from looking for love online to matrimonial matchmakers - people within the community who bring suitable matches together, whether it's through family or through organised events.

Another option is the traditional parental route, where parents introduce their son or daughter to a prospective match with family present.

It can be successful and some do meet the man or woman of their dreams in their mother's living room over a nice cup of tea. However, a parent's idea of a suitable boy or girl can of course be very different to what their offspring has in mind.

For young British Asian Maha Khan, setting up an Asian speed dating company was an obvious move.

'Shade-ism'

"Successful, career-focussed Asian women want to find their equal," she says. "But because they don't always socialise in Asian-only groups they don't easily come across the right man.

"I realised there was a huge demand for a platform to bring Asian singles of the same religion together in an environment that didn't need to involve the whole family.

"Our first speed dating event four years ago in London attracted over 150 professional Asian singles. We went on to organise events in bars and restaurants in other cities including Birmingham and Manchester."

Polish bride and Indian groom
Some are 'marrying out'
But some online dating sites reveal the extent of the problem Asian women face, with great emphasis on appearance, and in particular, complexion.

In Asian culture, skin-shade snobbery is rife, with the general consensus the browner you are, the less desirable.

One website offers a drop-down menu of skin shades. "Wheatish" appears to be one of the most common categories, with a choice of "wheatish", "wheatish medium" or "wheatish brown".

Despite the many challenges, including shade-ism, that British Asian women face, many find suitable partners and enjoy happy marriages. As we're still in the first generation of well-educated, career-minded Asian women who have delayed marriage, drawing any conclusions about what will happen to those who don't is difficult.

'Cultural clashes'

A recent Muslim matrimonial event held in London offered a glimpse into the current climate. The male host asked: "How many women in the room today would be willing to move in with their in-laws after marriage?"

A 33-year-old government analyst next to me sighed and put up her hand, swiftly followed by other women in the room. She later explained: "It's not something I want to do, but if I want to get married it looks like I have to consider it."

But while compromise is the option for some, other cultural shifts are emerging.

Actors from film Out Of Control
It's more acceptable for men to 'marry out'
"We've started to notice a few more Asian women marrying outside of their own cultures," says Sat Bhatti, partner in wedding planning company OccAsianZ. "In fact, we recently organised the weddings of two Sikh women who married white men.

"But you tend to only see this in cities where Asian communities are more liberal. Outside of London, for example, a mixed marriage is still a big deal."

While "marrying out" offers a new avenue, some women are still wary because of the cultural clashes that a mixed union can bring.

Surprisingly, it was a first generation British Asian mother who recently offered some Bridget Jones-like idealistic insight that got straight to the heart of the matter.

"There's nothing wrong with a nice white boy, as long as he likes curry I'm sure it could work," she said.


Below is a selection of your comments.

I agree with many elements of this article, however their is a couple of flip side points, which you have failed to aknowledge/consider. Despite a limited pool of eligible men, are the expectations of young asian ladies so high that they are constantly saying 'Next', due to minor details (like skin tone, age, family, size, income etc) hoping that the next guy is 'Perfect'? Secondly are young men marring outside the 'community' because it is socially acceptable or is it that the quality of young asian ladies are not acceptable to men? I know many non-asain women that absolutly love the family ties withen asian familes. These are just two flip (amongst many) sides to your article and as a young asian man that has gone through this (and after many discussions amongst other asian men in the same position) i can tell you, that the problem is the attitudes and expectations of both sex's within the asian community.
Ash, London

I wholeheartedly agree with the views in this article. I was lucky enough to meet my husband while studying at university and have been married for six years. However, for my sister who is a IT specialist working in the city- the task of finding that perfect match is proving very frustrating. First generation professional asian women don't want the 'cop out' solution of going to the motherland to marry, they want to find their equal here, who shares a common language and interests.
Anon, Birmingham, UK

I'm a British Asian male, and I think this articles slightly bias. Since at least here in the asian community of Glasgow, no matter how boring I find the women my parents want me to marry, if I married a white woman I'd be ostracised from my family immediately. That's the stark choice that most British Asians - both male and female - face. Either your family or marriage. No compromises whatsoever.
Kahsim Anwar, Glasgow

Absolute rubbish. Just as many men find it difficult to meet a partner who meets their criteria. Asian women are high flyers, and it's good they are, but they still want someone who is even more of a high flyer than them, which is fairly difficult! Lower your standards, look for an equal, not a superior, and you may have more chance. Good luck with it too! :)
Not a single asian man, UK

I have a beautiful sikh daughter in law who is adored by us all. Her two oldest sisters had arranged marriages and this was what they wanted but S and her older sister J both "married out". My son worked very hard to be accepted by her family, yes he likes curry and he also attends sangat occasionally with S and her family. We love our mixed race extended family it is what multiculturalism is all about.
jenny, Abingdon

As hard as it maybe for single Asian women to find suitable Asian men, I personally believe it to be the same for the men! I am a single Indian male in London, and have been looking for an Indian partner for some time now. I am definitely looking for an Indian girl and would not consider marrying outside my culture or religion. Thats my own choice and have had no pressure to do so, although, I am in agreement that it has become more common for Asian people to marry outside their religion & culture. I can fully understand the point of view of an Asian woman finding it very daunting to move in with their in-laws. But as unfortunate as some may see it, this has become a very very traditional custom amongst all Asian families and has been happening generation after generation. I am still living with my mother and would hopefully like to find someone who would be happy to move in with me and my mother. Knowing how daunting this can be I am also keeping an open mind that I will have to compromise and realise that this may not always be possible. The Asian community is such that if a son is not seen to be taking care of his widowed mother and instead 'puts her out' this would be frowned upon very badly by all, such is the pressure of the religious community. But at the sametime it is becoming increasingly difficult for myself to find a girl that will be willing to move in with me and my mother. My faith that I have and hold on to is that someday I will find a girl who will love me for who I am and how we are together. So much so that she will be willing to do anything for me and I anything for her. On another note, I am in agreement with Yasmeen that these matrimonial websites that let you choose the skin colour has become quite outrageous. Potential candidates being selected on their skin colour has become extrememly snobbish and must change in a world where we ourselves are trying to eradicate racism.
Anonymous looking for love!, London

I'm an Anglo Indian female who looks Asian (dark hair & eyes, big eyebrows) but has very fair skin (my Dad was ginger!). When i'm at Asian events with my Indian girlfriends i get alot of attention from middle aged mothers; they ask what i do, where i was educated and really press. I get picked out straight away and it's a little disapointing that people are still so obsesed with colour.
Anon, Woking/Oxford

This is a sad and disturbing story of self induced racism both within the Asian community (skin shade is important) and in their relationship with the wider community. Indeed I can not portray how shocked I am by the attitudes openly admitted here. Imagine if the subjects of this piece were white living in an area of high ethnic populations and the report was that they found it increasingly difficult to find suitable marriage partners because the stipulation was they had to be white and Christian. They would be accused of open racism so why is this different. It also reflects badly on the state of integration that has been a major news story over the past weeks. I as a white male find it offensive that I would not be considered as a suitable partner for these British Asian women because of my skin colour - and that's what this article is saying.
Mark, Liverpool, UK

Finally a mainstream article which acknowledges that being an educated, independant asian female is not an easy life !
notwhatiseem, Basinstoke

a website offering a drop down menu of skin shades? Wheatish brown? Wheatish medium? What is the world coming to....
Duppy, London

What about me? I want to marry a woman who was born on June 17th, has green eyes, is left handed, can speak fluent Japanese and is between 5ft 2in and 5ft 2.5in. It's so unfair that most girls i meet don't fit the bill. Is there something i'm doing wrong?
Mark Kelly, Cardiff

The think the British Asian mother has hit the nail on the head. A regular supply of curry would be a deal-maker for me!
Oliver Rudd, Bristol, UK




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