SIGI 2021 Regional Report for Southeast Asia

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Achieving gender equality and tackling discriminatory laws, social norms and practices set a direct path toward a more inclusive economy and society. The SIGI 2021 Regional Report for Southeast Asia provides new evidence-based analysis on the setbacks and progress in achieving gender equality between 2014 and 2019 in 11 countries. The report uncovers the discrimination women face within social institutions in various dimensions; in the family and household context, in relation to physical integrity and access to productive and financial resources, as well within the political and civil spheres. The SIGI 2021 Regional Report for Southeast Asia explores the interaction between women’s empowerment and discriminatory social institutions by looking specifically at four core areas – health, education, the economic dimension and decision making. It also unveils the cost of discriminatory social institutions for Southeast Asian countries and the socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis for women and girls. Building on the regional analysis of how discriminatory social institutions continue to hinder efforts toward SDG 5, the report provides a set of policy recommendations to enhance governments’ efforts to deliver on their gender equality commitments by 2030.


Executive summary

In the quarter century since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA), Southeast Asian governments have accelerated their commitments to achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment. All Southeast Asian countries have ratified the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, which aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as the ASEAN Gender Mainstreaming Strategic Framework in 2020. Yet, the region still has a long path toward gender equality. The Social Institutions and Gender Index 2021 Regional Report for Southeast Asia demonstrates that discrimination in laws, social norms and practices in Southeast Asia remains high compared with the rest of the world. The economic cost of discriminatory social institutions for Southeast Asia amounts to around USD 200 billion, accounting for 7.5% of the regional gross domestic product (GDP) and translates into a loss of USD 1 853 per capita. While wide variation exists across Southeast Asian countries, the region displays high levels of discrimination in terms of intra-household dynamics and caregiving roles, labour status, political representation as well as pervasive domestic violence. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates women’s vulnerabilities and reinforces pre-existing imbalances. In this context, this report explores how discriminatory social institutions hinder women’s empowerment and gender equality. It also calls for governments to take urgent action to build truly inclusive societies.


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