In this explainer, we examine the existing challenges towards advancing gender justice in Southeast Asia. Based on conversations with regional feminist and gender justice activists, we find that deeply entrenched patriarchal values are evident from the persistence of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). Other significant obstacles include male domination and exclusionary practices against gender issues in governments and ostensibly progressive activist movements alike. Coupled with widespread societal resentment towards the feminist movement and its values, we also explore how these activists define and perceive “feminism”, and consider the significance of the labels that they use in their activism. From a broader perspective, all these challenges are enabled by unjust structures and systems, thus contributing to the deprioritisation of gender justice and posing a fundamental barrier towards building an inclusive democracy.
This Explainer investigates the structural and systemic factors hindering the practice of inclusive feminist and gender justice-informed democratic action in Southeast Asia. We identify common and critical challenges, including but not limited to ineffective law enforcement, the surveillance and curtailment of freedom of expression, and religious fundamentalism. Narrowing down our focus to three key factors provides an opportunity to better understand how they present various barriers towards activism. Thus, they collectively serve as an entry point in further exploring the broader challenges hindering regional democratic development.
In today’s Community Corner, let’s revisit /ba·ca/ with New Naratif’s Feminism as a Tool for Democracy in Southeast Asia. Led by Thet Wai, Gender Rights Researcher at New Naratif, this /ba.ca/ session highlighted the importance of feminism in forwarding democratic rights in Southeast Asia.
This Democratic Participation Research series aims to understand democracy in Southeast Asia through studying the independent gender rights organisations in Southeast Asia. The research will focus on the following countries: Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.