East Asia and the Pacific

The region of East Asia and the Pacific is the third best performer in the 2014 edition of the SIGI, with low to medium levels of discrimination against women across all five SIGI sub-indices. The region is characterised by comprehensive legislative frameworks protecting women’s rights; however their implementation and weak institutional structures continue to hold back progress. Overall, moves toward gender equality are slow or patchy, particularly regarding civil liberties, secure access to land, violence against women and political voice, which are serious issues of concern for the region.

Countries in East Asia and the Pacific that have significantly reduced gender-based discrimination have done so by strengthening existing laws or creating new ones (e.g. Viet Nam), introducing joint titling schemes to boost women’s land ownership rights (e.g. Cambodia) and providing specialised services to facilitate women’s access to justice (e.g. Mongolia). In addition, some countries have established action plans to promote gender equality (e.g. Mongolia and Viet Nam). Significant gaps remain in legislation, implementation, community awareness and women’s legal literacy, which require urgent attention and concerted co-ordination between the region’s decision makers, civil society organisations and women’s rights networks.

The numbers of missing women have fallen since 2012. Although the unequal sex ratio remains alarming, considerably fewer women are missing in Papua New Guinea and the People’s Republic of China. The only country in the region demonstrating an increase in the number of missing women is the Democratic Republic of Korea.

Women’s status and decision-making authority within the family paint a mixed picture, mainly due to conflict between customary, religious and civil laws (e.g. Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore). Attitudes accepting domestic violence are prevalent across the region and peak in the Lao People's Democratic Republic and in Timor Leste (over 80%). In some countries, marital rape is still not recognised (e.g. Cambodia and Mongolia). A number of national family and civil codes maintain men as the only head of household (e.g. Philippines), which reduces women’s decision-making authority over household assets and family well-being. This also compromises women’s and girls’ rights to inherit, own, and control land and property, as well as restricts their freedom of movement.

Negative stereotypes and traditional perceptions of women’s roles cut across the region in public life as well, inhibiting women’s empowerment. The majority of the region’s countries have no quotas for women in politics at either the national or sub-national level (e.g. Fiji, the People’s Republic of China, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam), thus perpetuating low levels of women’s political leadership.