KYOTO – Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday returned to Kyoto, where she spent time as a researcher in the 1980s, to speak on changes in her society and efforts to close its gender gap, which she said is not as bad as Japan’s.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate and head of the National League for Democracy party was named an honorary fellow at Kyoto University, where she undertook research from 1985-1986. In a lecture to over 500 students and faculty at the university, Suu Kyi spoke about the role of women in Myanmar’s sociopolitical transformation over the past few years.
“In 2010, the Union Solidarity and Development Party, the ruling party, won over 80 percent of the seats, the same as my party won in 1990, and this is why it’s said the elections were flawed,” she said.
Of the 664 members of Parliament in Myanmar, only a few are women. But in last year’s by-elections, where 45 seats were contested, her NLD won 43, creating 13 new female lawmakers. Suu Kyi, 67, said narrowing the gender gap remains a work in progress, but that it is still better than the situation women face in Japan and South Korea.
“There are many who imagine Burmese women are on an equal footing with men and that there is no gender discrimination, although that is not true,” she said. “But I have to say gender discrimination is not seen to be as great as it is in this country. Research and statistics show Japan and South Korea have some of the greatest gender differences in the world today.”
Economists, especially at the World Economic Forum, have argued that with more economic incentives, the gender gap will close. But Suu Kyi said such thinking may be flawed. “If it’s true that the gender gap is largely economic in nature, why is it that the greatest gender gaps in the world exist in Japan and South Korea? It’s not just economic factors. It’s social values as well,” she said.