Marriage is always seen as a key milestone in Brit-Asian life
British Asian divorce is growing with many couples from the different Asian communities finding that their marriage is not a ‘happily ever after’.
Scenes of British Asian couples splitting their time with their children due to divorce is more common than ever before.
A British Asian man waiting in a car with two young children in the back seats sets a typical scene witnessed on a Sunday afternoon.
A few moments later a British Asian woman walks up and stands a distance away from the car.
It completely appears that the woman has nothing to do with the people in the car and that she is waiting for someone.
Both adults in the scene look in their late 20s or early 30s.
Sometime later, one child, a boy, comes out of the car and runs up to the woman. She greets the child hugging and kissing him.
Then, the man gets out and releases the second child, a girl, out of its child seat. He passes her belongings to her. The little girl hugs the man tightly and then walks up to the woman.
The man gets back into his car and drives off.
There is coldness, bitterness and absolutely no communication between the adults.
This scene is from Birmingham city centre in the UK with real people. It visualises a divorced British Asian couple with young children. It reflects British Asian parenting where divorce is the divider.
British Asian divorce among couples is soaring. And there does not seem to be a fix to the problem in sight.
Has it become too easy for British Asian couples to divorce? Have British Asians in particular given up on making relationships work?
Has tolerance in couples and expectations overridden cultural values and impact on future generations?
What is the real cause of British Asian divorce? These are questions being asked of the British South Asian society.
Divorce in South Asian communities was once a very taboo subject and very seldom heard of, even in the UK.
Older Asian generations that migrated to the UK, got married at a young age, usually in the form of arranged marriages and had children very soon after.
The nucleus of the home was the family and subsequently, the extended family.
Mothers usually stayed at home looking after and bringing up children and the father was seen as the head of the household and usually the income provider.
A framework that defined roles, responsibilities and the foundation of the relationship of a migrant couple.
As generations developed and got educated, British Asian society began to take advantage of what British life, work and leisure had to offer.
In the early 1970s to 80s, more first-generation Brit-Asian men went to university and polytechnics compared to women.
Young women were still seen as homemakers, and education was not an option for many due to family suppression.
However, in the 1980s to 90s this began to change, younger British Asian women attended higher education and pursued professional careers like the men.
Some cultures within ethnic communities were still not happy about women getting educated. So, you saw more Indian students than Pakistani or Bangladeshi students, for example.
Young women were often married at 16 years of age immediately after some basic schooling. In many cases, arranged marriages to spouses from native homelands.
However, this shift in education also introduced more freedom and liberalisation to the next generations of British Asians from South Asian backgrounds.
Different Way of Life
No longer were many Brit-Asian men and women thinking in the same way as their grandparents or parents.
They felt part of mainstream British society much more comfortably than previous generations.
This led to marriage not becoming the priority in their lives because careers, business and status took centre stage. The era of professional Brit-Asians was upon us.
The trend in arranged marriages declined and the concept of meeting your own partners began to grow.
This brings us to the point where British South Asian marriages are a mix of love, arranged and even speed dating encounters.
Brit-Asian women have evolved to being financially and professionally secure, whilst British Asian men have thrived in all kinds of business and professional life, no longer stereotyped as corner shop owners.
Young Brit-Asian married couples are more commonly living independently from family. The notion of the extended family is eroding.
Educated daughters-in-law find it difficult to adapt to the traditional demands of in-laws and in return, in-laws find it hard to understand new ways and accept change causing conflict and differences in opinion.
These changes have impacted family life, breaking the nucleus that was once prominent in Asian households.
Families vs Individual Choice
Brit-Asian marriages were primarily seen as the uniting of families rather than just two people and were strongly held together through guidance and support from families.
However, marriages today, are more the unity of the couple rather than the families.
Marriage is always seen as a key milestone in British Asian life.
A UK National Statistics report says the highest proportions of married couples under pension age, with or without children, are were in Asian households.
Over half of Bangladeshi (54%), Indian (53%) and Pakistani (51%) households contained a married couple, compared with 37% of those headed by a White British person. Demonstrating the importance of marriage for the Brit-Asian communities.
The lifestyle choices of British Asians have led to marriages happening later in life.
Implying that you are more prepared for marriage when you feel you are ready compared to when your parents and family think you are ready.
Giving more time and choice towards finding the ‘right’ person. Hence, the popularity of dating is now more common in British Asians compared to the past.
This shift in the British Asian marital process has definitely provided more choice and less pressure for many but at the same time, it has led to divorce happening more frequently too.
Elder generations say it is due to dating and more choice, that young British Asian couples find it harder to stay together.
Some may compare partners to previous relationships before marriage, others have high expectations of their partners, many are too selfish in the relationship and lots are not prepared to work at the marriage because they know they can divorce easily.
Rise of British Asian Divorce
British Asian marriages are collapsing at an alarming rate. Many within the first year of marriage and often include couples that have dated for a long period prior to marriage too.
Reasons for marriage break-up include boredom, lack of interest in a partner, in-law pressures, limited time for each other, imbalance in giving and taking, intolerance of each other, money and work pressures, arranged marriages and extra-marital affairs.
Affairs and adultery incidents have risen dramatically amongst British Asians which include high rates in men and women too.
Many blame the advent of mobile phone culture, social networking, internet dating and chat, making it very easy to meet new people.
For many, exposure to members of the opposite sex using these methods introduces thrill, excitement and attention missing in their marriages. Also, giving them secrecy and anonymity as required.
Impact on Children
British Asian divorce is generally breaking families into an ethnic society of single parent mothers and isolated fathers.
Children are growing up with disjointed parenting and atmospheres of bitterness and hatred amongst their parents.
This raises the question of the emotional stability and respect within future relationships of the children too.
Family divorce lawyer, Irpreet Khoil reveals that changes in parental attitudes towards divorce are also changing,
Parents are more prepared to accept their successful son or daughter wishing to divorce, who otherwise would’ve been told to stay in the marriage for the sake of ‘izzat’ (family honour).
Baldish Khatkar, another lawyer with British Asian divorce expertise, says that it’s not only younger couples that are divorcing.
She comes across some older couples who have been married for 20 or 30 years, who no longer want to continue with their relationships.
Many would therefore argue that much has been lost and very little has been gained by the new British Asian culture.
The question, whether divorce is the ideal solution for Brit-Asian couples who after dating, courting and living together still cannot achieve harmony in marriage compared to older generations who kept it together through tougher times and getting married in some cases after only meeting once.
And yes, it’s not only happening in the UK. In India, divorce is rising significantly amongst the urban middle class in city areas.
Dr Geetanjali Sharma, a marriage counsellor from Delhi told the BBC: “There’s been a 100% increase in divorce rates in the past five years alone.”
Asian divorce is somewhat normalising among the British South Asian communities compared to the past.
Where once, it was seen as not a viable option, today it is and has been for many couples who simply cannot be together any more.
What would you say are the reasons for British Asian divorce?