This paper focuses on the Malaysian women's movement and its potential for democratisation. Civil society actors in Malaysia have to face various restrictions set by a developmentalist and increasingly authoritarian political system and have to deal with increasing particularism based on ethnic and religious identities. This development is due to the ethno-nationalist state project and the process of a, partly state-driven, Islarnisation both of which have accelerated since the 1970s. It is argued that in Malaysia the discourse on Gender Equality and Women's Rights is ideally suited to constitute a public sphere and the formulation of political dissent. The transformational potential of this public sphere, which women's organisations build up through strategies of popularisation of feminist ideas and transnational networking, is grounded in the possibility of linking gender issues to broader societal issues like democratisation, sustainable development and religious pluralism. Within this space alternative visions of gender relations, development, and the political system are formulated.