the 14th to the 16th centuries Brunei Darussalam was the seat of a powerful
sultanate extending over Sabah, Sarawak and the lower Philippines. Thus,
the current Sultan represents one of the oldest continuously ruling
dynasties in the world. By the 19th century, the Brunei Darussalam Empire
had been whittled away by wars, piracy and the colonial expansion of
The population of Brunei Darussalam in mid-year 1999, is estimated at 330,700 persons, an increase of 7,600 persons or growing at 2.4% over the mid year population estimate 1998. Of the said total, 175,200 (53.0%) are males and 155,500 (47.0%) females.
This estimate includes all people residing in Brunei Darussalam. Malay, which also included Brunei Indigenous communities of Malay, Kedayan, Tutong, Belait, Bisaya, Dusun and Murut, constitutes the major population group numbering at 223,500 (67.6%). Other Indigenous group namely Iban, Dayak and Kelabit accounts for 19,600 persons (5.9%), Chinese at 49,300 persons (14.9%) and Other races not specified at 38,300 persons (11.6%).
Brunei Darussalam is still very
much dependent on revenues from crude oil and natural gas to finance
its development programmes. Aside from this, Brunei Darussalam also
receives income from rents, royalties, corporate tax and dividends.
Due to the non-renewable nature of oil and gas, economic diversification
has been in Brunei Darussalam's national development agenda. In the
current Seventh national Development Plan, 1996-2000, the government
has allocated more than $7.2 billion for the implementation of various
projects and programmes.
The country's official name
is Negara Brunei Darussalam. The reigning monarch is Sultan Haji
Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah.
Although men are eligible for permanent positions in government service whether or not they hold university degrees, women who do not have university degrees are eligible to hold government positions only on a month-to-month basis. While recent changes eliminated some previous inequities, women in month-to-month positions continue to receive slightly less annual leave and fewer allowances than their male and female counterparts in permanent positions.
There are no separate pay scales for men and women, and in recent years there has been a major influx of women into the work force. Women serve in a wide variety of capacities in the armed forces, although they are not permitted to serve in combat. The number of female university graduates is increasing, and nearly two-thirds of Brunei University's entering class is female.
Religious authorities strongly encourage Muslim women to wear the tudong, a traditional head covering, and many women do so. However, some Muslim women do not, and there is no official pressure on non-Muslim women to do so. All female students in government-operated schools are required to wear the tudong; students in non-government schools are encouraged to wear it.
In July 1999, a new Married Women's Law came into effect, improving significantly the rights of non-Muslim married women with respect to maintenance, property, and domestic violence. In November 1999, changes to the Islamic Family Law (in the section on Women's Position in Marriage and Divorce) came into effect and are expected to improve the marital rights of Muslim women.
Read more about the women in Brunei from this report by the US State Department.