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Covid-19 pandemic: breaking a new path for women political representation or business as usual?

Aminudin, Rabi'ah (2022) Covid-19 pandemic: breaking a new path for women political representation or business as usual? In: 2022 Asia Pacific Political Science Research and Publication Conference, 21-23 July 2022, Bangkok. (Unpublished)

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Gender equality is a part of the UN’s championed Sustainable Development Goal which reflects the global policy priority of bringing women to the table as decision-makers. The year 2021 has seen the highest record of women serving as the Heads of State and/or Government at and political representation at national parliaments. However, there seems to be a greater challenge for women to achieve equal political representation as COVID-19 pandemic that hit the world in 2020 has slowed down women political progress at global level. Until April 2021, COVID-19 has resulted into more than six million casualties and many countries have resorted to take strict measures to contain the widespread of the virus especially prior to the administration of the vaccines. The strict measures taken by governments worldwide include border closures, extensive contact tracing, physical distancing, and restriction of movements. The pandemic is proven to be precarious not only to public health but also to democracy around the world as governments are given ‘free pass’ to silence protests, clamp down oppositions and critics as well as greater control over public movements by using COVID-19 management as a justification. This also has halted the progress made by women movements and political activists in championing women political representation. Malaysia is one of the countries that imposed long and strict COVID-19 related security and safety measures. On top of the COVID-19 pandemic that hit the world in 2020, Malaysia also faced another crisis in the form of political uncertainty as the Pakatan Harapan that won the historical 2018 election was toppled down by its own allies through a soft coup by Muhyiddin Yassin and his team. Shortly after his appointment as Malaysia’s new prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin announced the strictest lockdown ever experienced by Malaysia which lasted until May 2020. This was followed by a series of lockdowns which lasted for almost two years before Malaysia officially announced that it entered the endemic phase in April 2022. With COVID-19 in the background, the country has experienced four state elections (Sabah, Sarawak, Melaka, and Johor) with three of them (Sabah, Melaka, and Johor) were due to the dissolution of state assemblies as the struggle for political power remain. The country also sees the changes of political leadership from Mahathir Mohammad (2018-2020) to Muhyiddin Yassin (2020-2021), and Ismail Sabri (2021-current). The combination of political and health crises is potent to the progress of women political empowerment in Malaysia as it further slips away in Global Gender Gap Index’s ranking in 2021 at 112th out of 156 countries measured. In 2020, Malaysia was at the 104th out of 153 countries. Despite scoring well in two out of four indicators used (educational attainment and health survival), Malaysia still falls behind for economic participation and opportunity (at 97th) and political empowerment (at 117th). According to the statistics produced by the Department of Statistics Malaysia, women representation in parliament is only at 10.8% which is lower than the global average of 21.8% and regional average of 18.4%. There have been various factors that hamper women’s active participation in politics such as socio-cultural values, public perception, and economic constraints. One of the the most critical institution that influences women’s political participation is political parties and the state that act as gatekeepers to the democratic process in society. This paper seeks to analyse how COVID-19 is utilised by political institutions specifically the state and the political parties to embrace changes as it is a possible critical juncture that provides opportunities for the state and political parties to renegotiate their structures, values, and positions in society to accommodate women. To explore the effects of COVID-19 towards women political representation in the state institution and political process, this paper identifies two areas to be examined: 1) political representation in the four state elections that took place during COVID-19, 2) gendered changes in state structures due to political instability during COVID-19. The paper aims to utilise feminist institutionalism to analyse the gendered consequences of COVID-19 on women political representation by using data on political parties’ selection of state electoral candidates and women representation in the cabinet and ministries at each point of political leadership’s change as Malaysia has had three different prime ministers since 2018 to 2022. This paper extends to the growing studies on the impacts of gendered political institutions to female political representation using COVID-19 pandemic and political instability as the research setting. The results of this study will provide useful insights on the important factors that influence the utilisation of critical juncture either to break a new path or maintain the existing path-dependency of women’s status in politics.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Other)
Uncontrolled Keywords: gender and politics, COVID-19, women political representation
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia > JQ715 Politics and Government in Malaysia
J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia > JQ719 Elections in Malaysia
Kulliyyahs/Centres/Divisions/Institutes (Can select more than one option. Press CONTROL button): Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences > Department of Political Science
Depositing User: DR Rabi'ah Aminudin
Date Deposited: 15 Aug 2022 20:54
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2022 20:54
URI: http://irep.iium.edu.my/id/eprint/99009

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