The Woman President – Asian leaders and their legislative footprints

Ramona Vijeyarasa

UTS Sydney

This paper is a culmination of 3 years of research on the legislative footprint of the woman President: Corazon Aquino and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from the Philippines, Chandrika Bandaranaike from Sri Lanka and Indonesia’s Megawati Sukarnoputri. The goal is to offer insights on the extent to which women leaders make the lives of fellow women better. The paper begins by providing context on the institutional mechanisms by which the President influences the law-making process and the outcomes achieved by national legislative bodies. The paper then draws from an analysis of the laws enacted during the tenures of these Presidents using the Gender Legislative Index, a tool that ranks and scores legislation in terms of its  gender-responsiveness, as well as interviews conducted with 50 key informants in the three countries, with current and former members of parliament, civil society and the academy. The paper provides a multi-country comparison of the legislative achievements of the executive leaders, navigating across issues such a gender-based violence, reproductive health, labour laws, mining and taxation. The findings traverse the electoral promises made in their rise to power through to the role of these presidents as enablers or obstacles to better outcomes for fellow women.


Dr Ramona Vijeyarasa is a Chancellor’s Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Technology Sydney, where she has designed a “Gender Legislative Index” to assess the gender-responsiveness of legislation. She is author of Sex, Slavery and the Trafficked Women: Myths and Misconceptions about Trafficking and its Victims (2015) and more than twenty other peer-reviewed publications on law and gender justice.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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