Thinking about women rulers, it is interesting to see how progressive South-Asia has been in this regard. Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have all had female leaders. In fact, the latter two have had more than one, as has India if you were to count Sonia Ghandi.
Critics of Asian culture in general, and Islam in particular, do like to remind us of the essential backwardness of the regions and religion, with a general misogyny being the primary exhibit. To those Muslims who voted for Benazir Bhutto, say, this might seem a spectacularly unfair accusation… especially when the USA (moralizer-in-chief) is turning itself inside-out over the question of whether the country is ‘ready’ for a woman (or a black man) to lead.
Perhaps an alternative measure of democratic maturity is not the length of time a country has sustained democracy, but the point at which the populous begins to elect leaders whose sex, race, and religious combination differs from that of the traditional ruling elite.
As an immeditae footnote to all this, I note that the while the first Black and Asian-heritage MPs were members of the Labour Party, the first woman MP, Nancy Astor, was a Tory.
It is also interesting that many of these paradigm-changing women ‘inherited’ their political seat from male family members. Nancy Astor stood in a by-election in 1919 after the incumbent, her husband, inherited a seat in the House of Lords. Isabel Martínez de Perón became president after her husband’s death, as did Khaleda Zia, Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Her predecessor Sheikh Hasina was the daughter of a President, as was Benazir Bhutto.
And then, of course, there’s Hillary.