Women’s Rights in Asia

In the years after #MeToo and COVID-19, is the situation for women in Asia getting better or worse?

Women’s Rights in Asia

An Indian woman holds a placard as she participates in a march to mark International Women’s Day in Bengaluru, India, Sunday, March 6, 2022.

Credit: AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi

It’s been five years since the “#MeToo Movement” denouncing sexual harrassment and sexual assult swept across the globe, including the Asia-Pacific. And it’s been nearly three years since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, with its knock-on effects exacerbating gender issues from domestic violence to gaps in pay and employment. Amid these countervailing yet intersecting trends, is the situation for women in Asia getting better or worse? That’s what we wanted to explore in this cover story.

We sought to approach that question through a series of case studies, not addressing “Asia” as a whole but instead focusing on a few specific countries from across the Asia-Pacific: China, India, Kazakhstan, and Papua New Guinea (discussed in order of their populations, from most to least). We asked each section author if women’s rights in these countries are getting better or worse. Many of them replied that it was a difficult question to answer, since women’s experiences even within one country are incredibly varied.

Overall, the answers paint a picture of entrenched patriarchy in the four sample countries – coupled, however, with the bravery of women’s activists continuing to push for progress.

With contributions from:

  • Lü Pin, a Chinese feminist activist and columnist who served as the founding editor-in-chief of Feminist Voices
  • Swarna Rajagopalan, a political scientist and peace educator who founded the NGO Prajnya
  • Xeniya Udod, a journalist, gender researcher, and co-founding expert with Central Asian feminist organization FemAgora.
  • Patricia O’Brien, a faculty member in Asian Studies at Georgetown University and in the Department of Pacific Affairs, Australian National University, and adjunct faculty in the Pacific Partners Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).