The Newsletter 62 Winter 2012

Women can’t have it all: gender and politics in Singapore

Theresa W. Devasahayam

Politics is clearly a male-dominate d aren a, yet a small number of women have managed to rise to the top. Asia is a case in point as the geographic region has featured several prominent female political figures in recent decades. Just think of those women who have held the highest political office: Indira Gandhi (India), Benazir Bhutto (Pakistan), and Sirimavo Bandaranaike (Sri Lanka). In Southeast Asia, we are familiar with Yingluck Shinawatra (Thailand), Corazon Aquino (the Philippines), Gloria Arroyo (the Philippines), and Megawati Sukarnoputri (Indonesia). Dominating the news lately has been Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese opposition politician who won 59 percent of the national vote in the 1990 elections. Significantly, these women all belong(ed) to powerful, dynastic families – unfortunately their rise to the top is an exception to the rule.

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