updated 17 Aug 2014, 18:59
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Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match in S'pore
by Jalelah Abu Baker

Singapore Idol Hady Mirza looks like he could have married anyone he wanted, but it was his mother who recently picked a bride for him.

Arranged marriage in Singapore? It still does happen, although experts said the form it takes has changed.

While parents and relatives are still involved, the single hearts have an equal say on who they are hopefully going to spend the rest of their lives with. And unlike matchmakers of old, there are websites that bring people together.

"It's not the archaic form you read about in textbooks. It's a participant-run system now," said sociologist Paulin Straughan.

She said that she herself has come across several young people who accept the idea of a modern arranged marriage.

The reason? "My parents would not hurt me, so why would they find someone for me who would?"

In the case of an Indian Singaporean, a 28-year-old analyst who did not want to be named, it was her brother-in-law who set up a meeting with his friend two years ago.

The man, a physiotherapist who is two years older than her and a Singapore permanent resident originally from India, became her husband after six months of dating.

"Initially, I was apprehensive, but no one put pressure on us. We knew we could decide on whether we wanted to marry after getting to know each other," she told My Paper.

She was open to the idea of an arranged marriage because she had positive examples around her.

"I have seen my cousins go through it and found that they had successful marriages. Also, my family is quite traditional. They would not have been keen on me finding my own partner," she said.

The couple have been married for two years.

She has at least two close female friends the same age as her who got married to men their parents introduced to them.

In fact, those who are from smaller communities are more likely to arrange such marriages, said Associate Professor Straughan.

Several people in Singapore have been turning to online avenues. Marriage websites and throw up hundreds of profiles of Singapore citizens and permanent residents.

Social media expert Michael Netzley said that Singapore's hectic lifestyle plays a part in young people taking the arranged marriage route.

"If someone is working 12-hour days and managing some other responsibilities, who has the energy to seriously date even if you were able to find someone?" he said.

But not all arranged marriages go according to plan, as the recent case of Meenatchi Narayanan shows. She was found murdered at a hotel in Brisbane, where she had gone to meet a man her family had described as an "ardent suitor".

The man, a South African Indian, has since been charged with her murder.

Violet Lim, the owner of Lunch Actually, which pairs singles up, said that a small proportion of parents approach her company.

She advises them to get their children to turn up instead. "Parents generally are very focused on getting their children married fast. Singles are generally looking to widen their social circle and meeting the right person, and if they do find someone suitable, they would settle down," she said.

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