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Gender rule remains elusive 11 years later

By Moses Nyamori | August 30th 2021
Kenya Women Parliamentary Association members demanding implementation of gender rule, August 29, 2018. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Implementation of the two-thirds gender rule has remained elusive despite several attempts by MPs push it through.

Another attempt through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) also collapsed after a landmark ruling declaring the process illegal.

Lack of political goodwill has seen several Bills designed to cure gender parity die in Parliament. A radical advisory by former Chief Justice David Maraga for President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve Parliament over failure to implement the two-thirds gender rule failed to yield results.

MPs were required to give effect to Articles 27 (8) and 81(b) of the Constitution to ensure not more than two-thirds of members in elective and appointive positions are of the same gender.

The requirement was to be implemented five years after the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution, but MPs revised the 2015 deadline by a year.

Since then several proposed amendments in attaining the requirement have flopped in Parliament, with the latest one in 2019 by then-Majority Leader Aden Duale suffering the same fate for lack of quorum.

Only 174 MPs were present in the House against at least 233 members required for a constitutional amendment.

Garissa Township MP Aden Duale. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Currently, there are 76 women MPs in the National Assembly. This means the House still requires at least 41 more female lawmakers to make a third of the 349 MPs.

The Senate has met the requirement by having 21 female senators out of the 67 members of the House. Of the 21, 18 are nominated while three are elected.

Constitutional lawyer Bobby Mkangi yesterday said political parties have to make radical decision in ensuring the requirement is met in the next elections at the nomination stage.

The political parties, he said, should also ensure that their nomination lists are populated by women in bridging the gap.

He blamed the inordinate delay in implementing the requirement on lack of political goodwill, arguing that the same requirement has been met in the counties.

“The primary issue is not the drafting or legislative because those have been there and it has worked in the counties and should be deployed at the national level. The bigger problem remains the political will that goes further to the society,” said Mkangi.

He suggested that political parties make radical decisions, including identifying constituencies for women in achieving the requirement.

“That is positive discrimination; parties keen on this should come out strongly and say we are taking this step deliberately to make sure we have more women in Parliament,” he added.

ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna said they plan to field more women in the next polls as part of the party’s strategy to meet the gender rule. “Parties have a role. If we all committed by ensuring we run a good number of women candidates it would be possible,” said Sifuna.

ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

“We at ODM for instance have set up a robust mechanism of identification and support of female candidates through our ‘He for She programme’. We aim to be the first party to achieve gender equity by ensuring we hit the one third threshold of women elected on ODM ticket in 2022,” he added.

BBI secretariat co-chairs Junet Mohammed and Dennis Waweru last week said the Court of Appeal judgement that declared push to amend the Constitution illegal was a major blow to the proposal to meet the gender rule. BBI had proposed to have a man and a woman elected in each of the 47 counties.

“There is no other likely way to resolve this matter. All previous attempts have failed. It is impossible to constitute a new Parliament without the solution to the gender equation,” they said in a joint statement.

“This needs urgent attention and BBI is the only viable solution in our view. We need the highest court in the land to pronounce itself on this matter,” read the statement in part.

Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju said the proposed constitutional amendment was the surest way of achieving the gender rule.

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