About this issue
The dynamism seen in contemporary Asia has a deep gender dimension. Rapid economic changes have fundamentally challenged the traditional division of labour of women working in the private, family domain and men in the public sphere of commerce and politics. Greater participation by women in politics has reshaped agendas for social change. The seemingly fixed images of masculinity and femininity are in flux, accelerated by the commercialisation of popular culture across the region. Although the LGBT community is still struggling to gain wider acceptance, it has made strides that have challenged the hegemonic status of heteronormativity. In the area of body politics, where the state and religious groups still exert enormous influence, women have been resisting or sometimes appropriating the debate to put forward their own agenda. The search for employment or new life opportunities has driven thousands of women to migrate, legally or illegally, within Asia as brides, labourers, traders or sex workers. In the midst of these transformations, there has been encouraging evidence of legal changes that recognise the rights of women, exemplified in the abolition of various patriarchal laws, such as south Korea’s family- head system, or by the enactment of equal opportunity laws or the lifting of bans on women in the military. yet old discriminatory norms and practices persist and are further complicated by regional political and economic developments. This issue of East Asia Forum Quarterly brings together prominent scholars of gender studies from various countries and disciplines to explore the diversity and complexity of issues of gender and sexuality in contemporary Asia. The essays touch on major developments that have caused shifts in gender relations. They illustrate the tensions between structural violence against women and women’s own agency in coping with male-dominant social arrangements. The main message is that gender politics do not merely reflect societal shifts. They drive the political, economic and cultural changes that are transforming the 21st century Asian region. The Asian Review section looks at the future of Indian federalism and the question of a new regional order.