This paper addresses the question of whether the relatively high status of women in pre-colonial South-east Asia is still evident among Malay women in twentieth century Peninsular Malaysia. Compared to patterns in East and South Asia, Malay family structure does not follow the typical patriarchal patterns of patrilineal descent, patrilocal residence of newly married couples, and preference for male children. Empirical research, including ethnographic studies of gender roles in rural villages and demographic surveys, shows that women were often economically active in agricultural production and trade, and that men occasionally participated in domestic roles. These findings do not mean a complete absence of patriarchy, but there is evidence of continuity of some aspects of the historical pattern of relative gender equality. The future of gender equality in Malaysia may depend as much on understanding its past as well as drawing lessons from abroad.
Keywords: Family, gender, marriage, patriarchy, women
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The primary purpose of the journal is to promote publications of original research related to the Malaysian economy. It is also designed to serve as an outlet for studies on the South-east Asian countries and the Asian region. The journal also considers high-quality works related to other regions that provide relevant policy lessons to Malaysia. The journal is receptive to papers in all areas of economics. We encourage specifically contributions on all range of economic topics of an applied or policy nature.