More Malaysian men look abroad for wives

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 May, 2007, 12:00am

The trend towards Malaysian men marrying foreigners has the government concerned that local women are going to be left on the shelf.

Malays increasingly are marrying Indonesian women, Chinese Malaysians are choosing brides from Vietnam and mainland China and Indian Malaysians have come to prefer brides from southern India.

According to government figures the number of brides from China jumped to 1,711 in 2005 from only 351 in 2001. Those from Vietnam jumped to 1,185 from 28.

Between 2001 and last year, 34,000 Malaysian men married foreign women.

However, marriages between local women and foreign men, mostly Europeans, dropped 33 per cent to 11,112 over the last five years.

'Increasingly more Malaysian women are left single or marry very late if at all,' said Chew Mei Fun, junior minister for the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.

'The reason for this trend is male ego,' she told parliament on Thursday.

'Malaysian women are better educated, earn more and are upwardly mobile. The men feel threatened, preferring more docile foreign women as brides.'

Michael Chong, a veteran politician who runs a free public complaints bureau, said a widening gap between better-educated females and poorly educated males is fuelling the trend.

'Campuses are cramped with females of all races. They study hard, work hard and are very successful,' Mr Chong said. 'They are finding it hard to get married.

'Many Malaysian men, on the other hand, even the educated ones, are looking for more homely types of women as brides.'

He said this explains why Malaysian men are increasingly tying the knot with foreigners of the same ethnicity.

One downside of the trend, Mr Chong said, is that some men are virtually buying their Vietnamese or Chinese brides from agents who parade the girls in rural areas.

'This is sickening and completely immoral,' he said.

Meanwhile, local Indians, who form about 10 per cent of the population, are increasingly heading to villages in southern India to find their brides, sometimes in the very villages their forefathers had migrated from a century ago.

'They want docile and un-westernised brides,' said Sarala Devi, who runs a struggling match-making agency that is losing business to online dating services.

'Lower dowry and cheaper wedding costs are other reasons to wed foreign women,' she said. 'They only pay M$30 [HK$70] to register their marriage here and later throw a small dinner.'

A dowry is customary in traditional Chinese and Indian marriages. It can include cash, stocks, cars and even a house or two.

'You still pay dowry for your foreign Chinese or Indian bride, but it is much cheaper,' said lorry driver Arumugam Sinnasamy, 46, who in 2004 married a 26-year-old Tamil woman from Chennai, India.

'I tried to find a bride here for 12 years but was rejected because I am only a lorry driver,' he said. 'In Chennai I found my bride within a week.'

He declined to say how much dowry he paid except to say it was 'affordable'.

Foreign brides

Number of Malaysian men who married foreigners between 2001 and 2006: 34,000