Women in Asia: Tradition, Modernity and Globalisation

By Louise Edwards; Mina Roces | Go to book overview

3 The status of women in a
patriarchal state: the case of
Singapore

Jasmine S. Chan

Department of Sociology
National University of Singapore

In order to understand the changing status of women in Singapore in the past 30 years, we would do well to first understand the social and political context of these changes. Singapore has been described as an authoritarian state (Rodan 1993). Since its independence in 1965 from the Federation of Malaya (see Pang 1971), Singapore has been ruled by one political party, the People's Action Party (PAP). 1 As a result of the domination of that one party in parliament, policies that both directly and indirectly affect women are made and implemented, sometimes with astonishing speed.However, to examine the status of women within the context of Singapore as an authoritarian state is not sufficient. The Singapore state is also an overtly patriarchal state. The authoritarian nature of Singapore therefore enables the swift implementation of national policies that are patriarchal in nature.

The Prime Minister of Singapore, Goh Chok Tong, has openly endorsed the government's position on patriarchy, pointing out that '(in) a largely patriarchal society, minor areas where women are not accorded the same treatment should be expected so long as the welfare of women

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