Asia’s boundaries are fluid, its nations and populations numerous and diverse. Human rights have flourished in a few settings but ethnic, religious, ‘racial’, and colonial histories regularly curtail opportunity as they do elsewhere. Imperialism takes its own forms as well.  China and Japan have often been hugely influential, even as they have experienced western efforts at domination at points in their histories. This region has also produced some of the earliest democratically-elected leaders, such as Ceylon’s (Sri Lanka’s) Sirimavo Bandaranaike the world’s first female prime minister in 1960.  Like many female ‘firsts’, she was the widow of the previous incumbent, her husband who was assassinated in 1959.  In Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto became the eleventh Prime Minister in 1988, heir to her executed father, the former prime minister, Bulfikar Ali Bhutto. She was in turn assassinated in 2007 but her privileged family, major landlords, continues politically powerful.  Such family connections, much like those of Hilary and Bill Clinton, remind us that kinship always matters when it comes to politics all around the world.

Asia Suffrage Timeline

Right to Vote
Right to Stand for Election
February 2nd, 1921 February 2nd, 1921
May 19th, 1921 May 19th, 1921
October 24th, 2002 October 24th, 2002
November 4th, 1972 November 4th, 1972
1953 1953
Men/women not allowed to vote since 1962. Men/women not allowed to stand for election since 1962.
September 25th, 1955 September 25th, 1955
China (People’s Republic)
October 1st, 1949
(also granted in 1911 after revolution)
October 1st, 1949
China (Republic of)/Taiwan
August 16th, 1960 August 16th, 1960
November 22nd, 1918 November 22nd, 1918
January 26th, 1950 January 26th, 1950
August 17th, 1945 August 17th, 1945
December 12th, 1945*/February 24th, 1947** December 12th, 1945*/February 24th, 1947**
Japan Notes
*”For the House of Representatives” (p. 202). **”For the House of Councillors” (p. 202).
1974* 1974*
Jordan Notes
“Women actually exercised the right to vote and stand for election for the first time in 1989” (p. 206).
January 31st, 1924 January 31st, 1924
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
July 30th, 1946 July 30th, 1946
Republic of Korea
July 17th, 1948 July 17th, 1948
June 1918 June 1918
1958 1958
1952 1952
August 31st, 1957 August 31st, 1957
1932 1932
November 1st, 1924 November 1st, 1924
1935 March 19th, 1946
1951 1951
1997 1997
1947 1947
April 30th, 1937 April 30th, 1937
1999 1999
Saudia Arabia
2015 Municipal Elections (expected) 2015 Municipal Elections (expected)
July 18th, 1947 July 18th, 1947
Sri Lanka
March 20th, 1931 March 20th, 1931
September 10th, 1949* 1953
Syria Notes
“women who had reached a sixth-grade educational level; it was then extended to all literate women, and in 1953 all educational restrictions on voting were lifted for women” (p. 371).
1924 1924
December 10th, 1932 December 10th, 1932
April 3rd, 1930 December 5th, 1934
1927 1927
United Arab Emirates
2006 2006
1938 1938
January 6th, 1946 January 6th, 1946
1967 (People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen)/
1970 (Arab Republic of Yemen)
1967 (People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen)/
1970 (Arab Republic of Yemen)


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