Gatekeepers in Local Politics: Political Parties in Cambodia and Their Gender Policy
Gender issues have become a part of mainstream Cambodian politics over the last decade, and gender-neutral electoral systems have been developed in cooperation between donors and government. Female representation has been achieved primarily through direct and indirect elections at different levels. And although Cambodia is a male-dominated culture in a patrimonial society, attention has turned to attracting female voters, and the strategic importance of female leaders and role models is being slowly realised. Predictably, driven by popular demand, gender issues have become a part of mainstream Cambodian politics over the last decade. Political parties are the key determining forces in shaping gendered local political representation.
Thus, this study aims to explore the situation of women in political parties in Cambodia by focusing on the research question: How do the parties perform locally and what do they do to promote gender equality internally? In answering this research question, two critical issues are empirically examined: political party policy and women’s political articulation and influence in local politics.
The report comes up with two main findings. First, women are under-represented in local politics in spite of marked progress in the last decade and strong policies from all major actors. It appears that there are major and elusive impediments to a more thorough change towards gender-equal political representation. Second, while local politics may be the most accessible political arena for women, experience from other countries in similar predicaments suggests that also here, the party system constitutes a conservative bloc of patriarchal resistance to greater gender equality.