There is ample opportunity in the Maldives for gender equality to be advanced andtranslated into economic and social empowerment for women. However, it isnecessary to remove legal obstacles to advancing gender equality by laying thelegislative groundwork and foundations.The current period of major political reform and democratic transition presents amajor opportunity to catalyze economic, political and social reforms for womenthrough groundbreaking legislation that will lay the legal foundations for genderequality. The Maldives has recently asked the Asian Development Bank (ADB) tohelp prepare and implement a GEL.
Legislating for Gender Equality and Temporary Special Measures (TSM)
A GEL can help in numerous ways. Despite the existence of some gender sensitivelaws and policies, barriers remain to the full realization of gender equality in theMaldives, including weak institutional capacity, and rising conservative, gender-discriminatory interpretations of religion are also reinforcing traditional andstereotypical views of women’s roles in society.Although progressive legislation cannot by itself bring about gender equality, it canhelp to provide legitimacy for special programs and support to women withoutbeing regarded as discrimination against men. Further, gender equality laws canrequire TSM and the allocation of resources to close gender gaps and advancegender equality. Without such a law it is difficult to justify the special allocation of resources and other advantages to women.The
Support for Gender Equality Law Project
is financed under ADB’s Gender andDevelopment Co-operation Fund and aims to promote gender equality in access toresources and opportunities, and women’s full enjoyment of rights, including indecision-making.
A Law to Address all Facets of Women’s Lives
An all encompassing Gender Equality Law will define and prohibit all forms of gender discrimination and pro-actively promote gender equality through TSM. Itwould state the basic principles of gender equality, define whose responsibility it isto promote gender equality and provide accountability mechanisms includingspelling out the responsibility of specific public agencies.The scope of the GEL should apply not only to government but also to the privatesector, family and community. A good GEL can address gender equality in allsectors, as well as economic, social, cultural and political inequalities, and providefor proactive gender design in health, education, agriculture, tourism,infrastructure, water, energy and transport sectors, as has been done in otherAsian countries.