The Uneven Representation of Women in Asian Parliaments: Explaining Variation across the Region

Devin K. JOSHI, Singapore Management University


Although home to the majority of the world's women, Asia is the continent with the smallest proportion of women in Parliament. Rarely studied from a comparative perspective, this article examines the uneven representation of women in the lower houses of contemporary Asian parliaments. While socio-economic modernization and industrialization are generally expected to increase the proportion of women in positions of political influence, we find that differences in electoral and party systems across Asia play a greater role than levels of female literacy, urbanization, or per capita income. In particular, Asian parliaments with strict quotas and a higher number of (three of more) major political parties had significantly more female MPs. We also found cultural attitudes supportive of women in the public sphere to make a difference along with multi-member districts and parties on the political left. © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2013.