In a report issued just days before national elections, the United Nations has urged Thailand to raise the number of women in politics and civil service, chastising the country’s “cultural and traditional prejudices of a male-dominated society.” Thailand will fail to meet its own ambitious goal to double the proportion of women in government. The report blames unflinching attitudes of men for the lack of progress. Gender equality is third on the list of U.N. Millennium Development Goals. In some places, however, married women are just now being allowed to own land, female fetuses are aborted and women do not get maternity leave.
Thai women make up only 10 percent of the outgoing parliament, placing the country 113th out of 185 countries. Only Cambodia, Malaysia and Japan rank below Thailand in East and Southeast Asia, the report said. Dr. Juree Vichit-Vadakarn, the report’s lead author, was quoted as saying that a major shift in attitude among men are needed for gender equality in politics. Other than urging the country to set a timeline for recruiting more women, the report was short on how to effect that change.

[The report will likely receive little attention despite an article about it in the Bangkok Post especially during an unprecedented mobilization to oust deeply entrenched Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.]

  • In the Philippines, married women are finally allowed to apply for land ownership given that she is estranged from her husband, he is incapacitated or he is in prison.
  • In India, female infanticide, the selective abortion of female fetuses, accounted for about 10 million missing female fetuses in the past two decades. An Indian physician has been sentenced to two years in prison for violating a 1994 law that bans disclosing the sex of a fetus. The law aimed at stopping the widespread selective abortion of girls is largely ignored.
  • Egypt still shows little respect toward women especially when it comes to the judiciary. There is only one woman, Judge Tehany al-Gebaly, in the executive judiciary.
  • Taiwanese companies still get away with refusing to provide maternity leave which is illegal under the 2002 Gender Equality in Employment Law. A majority of companies have also refused to offer menstrual leave, miscarriage leave or paternity leave.