Ongeza Mizigo? Bill seeks to increase women MPs

Women legislators protest the assault of their colleague on July 13, 2019 at Parliament. [File, Standard]

A lawmaker has drafted a Bill seeking to increase the number of women legislators in both the Senate and National Assembly.

The Constitution of Kenya (Amendments) Bill, 2019 also seeks to have more women in the 47 county assemblies in yet another fresh effort to resolve the elusive gender parity.

The Bill by Uasin Gishu Woman Representative Gladys Shollei seeks to increase the number of electoral units designated for women from the current 47 to 136.

It also seeks to increase the number of senators from the current 67 to 100 members.

If enacted, the number of nominated members to the National Assembly will also increase from the current 12 to 22.

This latest proposal comes in the backdrop of other parallel initiatives seeking amend the 2010 Constitution.

Currently, Punguza Mizigo Bill by Ekuru Aukot’s Third Way Alliance Party leader Ekuru Aukot is before the 47 county assemblies for approval before it can be subjected to a referendum.

In the Senate, the Bill proposes that each of the 47 counties elect a man and a woman, bringing the number of senators to 94. The House will further nominate four persons with disability and two youths.

“Clause 5 of the Bill proposes to amend Article 98 to provide for election of two members of the Senate of each gender by the electorate in the counties. The clause also proposes the nomination of four persons with disability and two youths,” reads the Bill ready for tabling in the National Assembly.

In the National Assembly, the Bill wants the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to create electoral units that will be designated for women at least 12 months before a general election.

It proposes that two adjacent constituencies in each county be used as electoral units in electing the 136 women to the National Assembly.

This implies that a county with eight constituencies will have four women lawmakers in addition to the eight elected to represent the single consistencies, bringing the total number to 12.

But in counties with od number of constituencies, three constituencies with the least number of voters will be used as a single unit to elect a woman.

The proposal means the number of MPs in the two Houses will shoot to about 535 from the current 416.

This is on assumption that the 290 constituencies will be used to create an additional 145 electoral units for women.

“Clause 4 of the Bill proposes to amend Article 97 to increase the number of elected women members of National Assembly from 47 to 136. It further seeks to increase the number of persons to be nominated to the national assembly from 12 to 22 and limit the nominative seats to persons with disability,” it reads.

The proposal contains a sunset clause of ten years with a window of extension for a further ten years through an Act of Parliament.

The latest Bill seeking to amend the Constitution goes against the public outcry about ballooning wage public wage bill occasioned by the large number of MPs in the bicameral Parliament.

But Shollei argues that it seeks to amend the constitution in order to ensure that the number of Members of Parliament reflect the requirement of Article 27 (8) that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender.

She further argues that the Bill will ensure that the membership of Parliament also reflects the requirement of Article 54(2) of the Constitution that at least five percent of the members of the public in elective and appointive bodies be persons with disabilities.

In the county assemblies, it seeks to abolish nomination slots but create electoral units for election of one woman for at least every two wards.

The country has a total of 1450 county assemblies, implying there would be over 700 women elected from the special electoral units.

“With regards to the membership of county assemblies, the Bill seeks to limit the number of representative words to one thousand four hundred and fifty and provide for the election of one woman for at least every two wards in a county for purposes of gender parity and to remove the provision for post-election gender top-up seats,” it explains.