Gender and Global Politics in the Asia-Pacific

Chapter 10: Gender Mainstreaming in a Post-Conflict State: Toward Democratic Peace in Timor Leste?

Gender equality is widely believed by international organizations and mainstream commentators to contribute to the consolidation of democratic norms and domestic and international peace. The United Nations (UN) has promoted strategies for achieving gender equality as a central part of its peacebuilding and reconstruction programmes. In Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor, UN missions have incorporated gender-mainstreaming and gender-balanced decision-making policies and programmes to foster civil society as means to ensure long-term peace and development. To what extent, though, are these institutional initiatives able to transform the deep-seated gendered social hierarchies in these new states? Feminist scholars argue that such hierarchies are at the root of violence against women, women’s lack of voice and political representation. They hold that any meaningful democratic strategy must eliminate these hierarchies to bring about political freedom and equality. In Timor these feminist perspectives on gender justice and equality are an emerging part of the public debate about the processes of democratization in state and civil society. They can be seen in speeches, communications and reports of local women’s organisations, donor agencies, NGOs and the UN. However, this political activity has yet to be theoretically analysed by feminist or non-feminist scholars. Here we seek to highlight some of the gendered practices of democratization and assess the struggles within Timorese civil society to forge a gender-equal democracy.

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