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Women’s political participation in the context of modernisation: A comparative study of Australia and Bangladesh

Ara, Fardaus (2017) Women’s political participation in the context of modernisation: A comparative study of Australia and Bangladesh. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Many proponents of modernisation theory assert that economic growth leads inevitably to social development. Ronald Inglehart, Pippa Norris and Christian Welzel, in their revised modernisation theory, claim that along with socio-economic development, modernisation fosters cultural change that in the long run leads to greater gender equality in all sectors including politics. However, they have identified structural, institutional and cultural barriers to the political participation of women; cultural being the strongest force that sometimes resists gender equality despite economic development.

Women are now participating in all sectors of politics. However, globally they are marginal in politics as candidates, elected representatives, ministers, the prime minister, political leaders, mayors and so on, regardless of the level of socio-economic development within countries. There is no country either developed or developing that has ensured equal participation of women in politics.

This comparative study aims to analyse the issue of the underrepresentation of women in the national parliament and local government in Australia and Bangladesh. The empirical analysis consists mainly of data derived from semi-structured interviews with the elected female representatives from the parliament and local government in the two countries.

This thesis finds that with few exceptions, women in Australia and Bangladesh have to overcome similar hurdles to their participation in elected office. The findings highlight the tremendous lag in social change leading to gender equality. Furthermore, the similarity in issues facing women entering politics in both countries, despite tremendous cultural and socio-economic differences, indicates that the social barriers appear to relate to universal challenges to participation of women in politics, more specifically to patriarchal structures and values associated with electoral politics. However, the barriers tend to be exacerbated by lack of modernisation and various cultural tendencies, thereby providing partial support for the revised modernisation theory.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Supervisor(s): Northcote, Jeremy, Evers, Barbara and Warren, Carol
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