I joined a group of women clad in hijaabs for lunch on Friday. I made some small talk just to get them to switch from Bahasa to English and also make them less awkward for a stranger having joined them. Soon, the conversation got more interesting and I started quizzing them about the history and etiquette of hijaabs. I learnt that these women are not allowed to show their head, ears, neck and chest to any man apart from their own family until they are married off to this man. The conversation grew deeper in god, religion and faith and I wondered how these women managed to still abide by these religious restrictions despite the explosion of wide spread access to varying opinions on the internet today. Later that evening, I logged on to one of these many dating/ social discovery apps (Now, why I did that needs an explanation but I shall save it for another day) only to discover 100s of Indonesian women on these sites, and that too without their hijaab.
Every second woman followed Islam and was very serious about it and every third was a single mother looking for a nice boyfriend. The pictures conveyed a genuine yet desperate undertone, which is not strange given that women typically don’t sign up on dating websites unless they really really need to. There was definitely an intense underlying desire to marry an expat, which I couldn’t help but notice because every second or third woman said she loved to cook and had clearly stated being in the process of learning to cook Western food. You could have been sure that these women who wanted to marry expats were mostly of Korean or Chinese origin since local Indonesians are more conservative in that sense. While greater education has given these women economic independence, we are yet to be liberated from our traditional views of wanting to “marry up” and unfortunately, since that’s becoming increasingly difficult in these communities, these women are seeking to compensate this through perceived racial status elevation or foreign exchange benefits.
On the other hand, the men were as sober as you’d find in Barcelona. There was a fairly even distribution of men looking for friends, relationship and flings, yet none too desperate (this is not in comparison to the women, but to men elsewhere). Most men were local and knowing that Jakarta is becoming increasingly expat populated, these websites are probably not a place these men meet women. Now, this is surely not surprising given my earlier hypothesis where the demand for expat men far exceeds the supply. I heard from a local that her friends often urge her to linger around bars in the South to increase her chances of meeting expat men and so, that’s probably where the market gets cleared. Seeing that a rather conservative city like Jakarta (with places of worship every 100 mtrs) encourages women to be on these sites, you would imagine that the situation must be far better in India, right?
In Bangalore, this particular website has 6 women out of which one is a dude and another is a bot, I suspect. Why? Within the first 30 seconds of logging in, I had messages waiting from 27 men asking if I want to make friendship with them. This would seem reasonable if I had a profile picture (Well, I’m surely at unpleasant looking since that’s really only what matters to people on these websites), but I didn’t. This was the same profile that didn’t attract more than 1 or 2 men in any of the other cities I have ever travelled to, but what is it about Indian men that makes them tear apart women like this on dating websites? This is the same desperation that has earned India its recent title of rape capital of the world and all of this says something about our society and culture rather than the over secretion of male testosterone.