Written by Hinna Sheikh
Nearing the end of an undergraduate degree for a South Asian Muslim female can only mean one thing — and no, it is not that exciting-yet-daunting projection into the career world.
As I enter into my final year at university, the interest in me has peaked among family members, not because they are concerned or interested in my future career plans, but rather they want to ask me, “so beta, when are you going to get married?” “Beta, I think it’s time to settle down.” “Beta, have you found anyone at university?”
Why is it that for boys, it’s okay for them to ‘have a few years to find an job and take some time,’ but for girls — after university, we must be whisked away by some guy and be at the service of in-laws?
Instead of asking me about my possible dissertation topics, my module options, or what I want to do (career wise) after university, their fixation is on marriage.
But this fixation is for girls only. Why is it that for boys, it’s okay for them to ‘have a few years to find an job and take some time,’ but for girls — after university, we must be whisked away by some guy and be at the service of in-laws?
Our achievements apparently do not lie in the fact that we are going to university, doing some really hard degrees — or for those lucky few, making it on the career ladder. No, none of that is worth anything, unless we are married or actively looking for a partner.
I understand that in Islam, marriage is important and is half of our faith, and many of us would indeed like to get married someday. But there should not be this unfair pressure on us girls to find a partner as soon as our university education finishes. We have not attended university and worked hard just for the sake of it.
We attend university for a purpose, to educate ourselves and broaden our outlook on the world — but also to help us find a job later in life. Some of us will study up to five years (shoutout to those medics and dentists) in order to achieve this. Years of our hard work and efforts are not to be concluded by, “You’ve studied, now get married.” We should be given the opportunity, just as our male counterparts, to study further, begin our careers — but also, to enjoy life after the years of hard work and sacrifice we have put in.
Major reform is needed within the mindset of the South Asian community, and it is something I hope will get better with time.
So the next time an aunty asks me to settle down, my reply will be, “Yes aunty, I’ll be settling down nicely, into my Master’s program.”