The Politics of Culture and the Culture of Politics: A Case Study of Gender and Politics in Lospalos, Timor-Leste

In Timor-Leste the fight against Indonesian occupation, social conservatism, the persistence of ethnic and cultural mores and the prioritisation of caste and adat have shaped gender relations in both public and private life. In the early struggle for power after independence women fought long and hard for recognition as important political actors and concomitantly the implementation of a policy of affirmative action to ensure their place in the new National Parliament-a battle initially sidelined and defeated by primarily international political androcentricity. Recent achievements of almost 30 per cent representation of women in the National Parliament demonstrate that women have come a long way in a very short time. Nevertheless, the problems of regional political and socio-economic incorporation have impeded the establishment of a full and complete citizenship for women. This paper considers how the politics of culture and traditional mores in a post-conflict situation can determine and shape the political struggle for gender equity both within and across the different generations of Timorese men and women.

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