For the first time since achieving Independence in 1965, women now make up more than 10% of parliamentary representatives in Singapore. While this figure still lags behind international benchmarks, it is a significant improvement on the last election in which women made up less than 5% of MPs. This article explores the factors that led to the increase in women’s parliamentary representation. I examine the attitudes of senior leaders within the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), as well as recent constitutional reforms, including the introduction of the Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs) scheme, and the creation of a Group Representative Constituency (GRC) system. I argue that while these reforms provide improved opportunities for women to participate in politics, the PAP largely determines women’s electoral chances. Despite party protestations to the contrary, women don’t enter a level playing field, but one in which the terms of engagement are largely PAP defined. It is a political environment in which women are always bound to the family. While both culture and politics are important factors in determining women’s political representation, the manipulation of ‘culture’ for political purposes by a male-dominated party elite is more significant. Until the issue of gender inequality is directly addressed, women’s opportunities to participate in politics will thus remain limited.
Lyons, LT, A politics of accommodation: Women and the People’s Action Party in Singapore, International Feminist Journal of Politics, 2005, 7(2), 233-257. International Feminist Journal of Politics can be found here through Taylor & Francis journals.