Two thirds gender rule overdue

Due to closed minds and the inability of Kenyans to accept that time for gender equity has come, implementing the Two Thirds Gender principle is meeting obstacle after obstacle with those charged with the responsibility of making the change happen staggering.

Time for Kenya to enact laws that support the women's place at the political decision making table is now and not tomorrow. This issue can no longer be delayed as the country remains an eyesore in the East African region. Even though Kenya is considered the most progressive nation in the eastern bloc, when it comes to women holding leadership positions in Parliament, it has been overtaken by many others, including younger states like South Sudan and Rwanda which have already achieved gender parity.

Currently Rwanda is leading globally with about 64 percent of its members of Parliament being women. South Sudan, Tanzania, Burundi and Uganda have all achieved the 30 percent threshold. This means that in their Parliaments, the not more than two thirds of the same gender rule is already in effect.

Kenyan MPs and voters might be suffering from lack of knowledge to understand that affirmative action, the principle on which the two thirds gender rule stands is actually meant to level the playing ground against inequality and discrimination.

The term affirmative action was first used when the United States President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order Number 10925 on March 6, 1961. Kennedy wanted to ensure discrimination would come to an end. At the time, President Kennedy ordered all government contractors in the United States to 'take Affirmative Action to ensure that applicants are employed and employees are treated equally without regard to their race, creed, colour or national origin'.

Affirmative Action is intended to provide opportunities for minority and marginalised groups within a society. Affirmative Action also corrects existing unfair treatment and gives women and men equal opportunity in all spheres of life be they social, economic, cultural or political.

The Kenya Constitution 2010 has detailed articles in relation to equality and non-discrimination. Article 27 speaks of equality and freedom from discrimination. It goes further to state: '(1) Every person is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law; 2) Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and fundamental freedoms; (3) Women and men have the right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres; (4) The State may not discriminate directly or indirectly against any person on any ground, including race, sex, pregnancy, marital status, health status, ethnic or social origin, colour, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, dress, language or birth'.

Article 100 speaks of Promotion of representation of marginalised groups. It states: 'Parliament enacts legislation to promote the representation in Parliament of women; persons with disabilities; youth; ethnic and other minorities; and marginalised communities.'

While in Kenya there have been 2,115 members of Parliament since 1963 to date, so far only 142 women have been elected and nominated. This is a glaring disparity whose time has come to be changed. While other areas like education realised long ago that affirmative action would help level the playing ground, in politics it remains a long shot. In the National Assembly and Senate, the two houses that make Parliament, women remain marginalised because they have been denied room to sit in.

Leader of majority in the National Assembly, Hon Aden Duale has filed a motion in Parliament that will help Kenyans achieve the Two Thirds Gender rule. Famously known as the Duale Bill, it will ensure that no more than two thirds of the same gender sits in the august House. The Bill safeguards the gains achieved over the years and takes care of special interest groups, women included.

Parliamentarians, therefore, will have to stop politicising of the two third gender rule since it's a human rights and development issue. When they do this, equality will be achieved and Kenya will claim to be rightfully a government of the people for the people.