NAIROBI: Female legislators have complained of rampant cases of sexual harassment within Parliament, even as they petitioned National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi to establish a gender unit to handle the criminal cases.
The female MPs expressed fear that the gains made to guarantee gender freedom in Parliament were gradually being eroded. This, they said, had to many cases of sexual harassment of women members and staff being reported.
The MPs, under the Kenya Women Parliamentarians Association (KEWOPA), said that Parliament and other investigative organs must address the worrying trend of women harassment, both in the House and outside.
“For a country where women have literally fought hard to be in the positions of leadership that they now hold, we cannot allow a few people to take us back and erode the gains we have made,” said KEWOPA Chairlady Cecily Mbarire.
The concerns of the women MPs follows two high profile cases of alleged sexual harassment involving MPs. Taita Taveta Woman Representative Joyce Lay has accused Turbo MP Elisha Busienei of sexually harassing her while they were on an official duty in Japan.
Separately, Imenti Central MP Gideon Mwiti is under investigation by police for alleged rape.
The MPs asked Muturi to establish a gender unit to deal with cases of harassment within Parliament, which they said was also being meted on female staff members.
They also urged the Speaker to sanction a probe on the alleged harassment reported to the House leadership, including the one involving Lay, to establish the allegations and possible legal action.
“We are also following closely the investigation of the case where one male MP is accused of rape and we will be expecting nothing short of criminal prosecution to be established against the MP if the ongoing probe incriminates him,” said Mbarire.
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The legislators took issue with their male counterparts over what that they termed as attempts to change the script in the case against Busienei to portray Lay as having acted in a way that attracted her alleged harassment.
“We have listened to her (Lay) and we will not allow the matter to be twisted to appear like she called it upon herself to be harassed. We are standing in her support and we will not allow the matter to be swept under the carpet,” the Runyenjes MP said.
Mbita MP Millie Odhiambo claimed that there was a deliberate move by male chauvinists to use alternative media to portray bold women MPs as lacking in morals.
The MPs attacked a weekly publication over a story claiming that there was an attempt by the publication to damage the reputation of female MPs.