Women and Politics in Southeast Asia

Sample Term Paper

Words 2,100

Women in Asia’s local governments are making their mark with distinct styles of leadership, but have a long way to go to reach the critical mass needed to level a political playing field that remains much easier for men to take part in. The percentage of women holding local government seats in the Asia-Pacific ranges from 2% to 33%, says a study commissioned by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for the Asia-Pacific (ESCAP) and released at the summit. The gender balance figures vary among Asian countries – Sri Lanka has only 2% of women in local government, while India has 33% because of legal quotas setting aside one-third of the village and other local seats to women. In East Asia, Vietnam and China have 26.6% and 21.8% of women in local government seats respectively. The Philippines has 16.5% of women in local government and Japan, only 6.2%. (Son, 1999)  The figures show that women remain under-represented in local governments across Asia, even though they make up more than half its population and even if lower-level governments are considered easier for them to penetrate than national politics.

Some countries show wide gaps between women’s presence in local governments and in the central government. While India has a third of local posts allotted for women, only 7.9% of its women are in central government. The Philippines and China, however, have little disparities between the percentage of women holding local and national posts.  “It has become clear that while a small number of women have attained the highest political positions in their countries, a critical mass of women is still to be elected and there is no place in which women hold the same number of seats as men,” said Jean Drage of the Victoria University in New Zealand, author of the ESCAP report.

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