Southeast Asia’s women fight for empowerment against the tides of political change

Women at risk of sexual violence in Myanmar, Malaysia’s former first lady’s fall from grace, Cambodia’s underground sex market helps empower women and an author’s essays explore political dissonance through the metaphor of fruit

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October 8, 2022
Southeast Asia’s women fight for empowerment against the tides of political change

Hello Globe readers,

Thailand is reeling in the aftermath of its largest ever stabbing and shooting, when a gunman armed with firearms and a knife, stormed a daycare centre in northeastern Thailand on 6 October. The former policeman killed at least 37 people including over 20 children, before turning the weapons on himself. 

Globe’s Beatrice Siviero is on the ground giving live updates from the scene. Follow our twitter for updates. 

This week’s stories cover the shifting tides of political change and the effects it has on women living in Southeast Asia. 

In Myanmar, as the crisis continues, countless numbers of women from the conflict-torn country have been displaced, finding themselves in uncertainty and legal limbo, increasingly vulnerable to sexual violence at the hands of the military. Maggi Quadrini, a multimedia activist for community-based organisations along the Thailand-Myanmar border, explores their struggles and what international stakeholders need to do to drive change.

Women’s empowerment was also a theme for Daniel Zak’s discussion of Cambodia’s underground sex toy market. The Phnom Penh-based journalist discusses how, while vague laws and cultural taboos have stymied the sector, forward-thinking entrepreneurs are helping women drive conversations about sexuality and open up about experiences of sexual harrassment. 

While Malaysia gears up towards its general election at the end of this year, the spotlight hovers over one couple from a past political era. Former first lady Rosmah Mansor, wife of imprisoned Malaysian ex-premier Najib Razak, stands convicted of corruption. As a new date is set for her appeal, Jarni Blakkarly reports on Mansor’s fall from grace and if she could be a political scapegoat to save her husband. 

Political dissonance is the theme of Sally Tyler’s new book, The Durian Chronicles, using the unusual fruit as a metaphor for the political paradoxes in Southeast Asia and her native U.S. Fuelled by a love of the region and discontent at the changing political climate of the Trump presidency, the author focused on foreign policy, international relations and diplomacy for her collection of essays. She discusses these themes in an interview with Globe’s Beatrice Siviero

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