Uhuru, Raila call urgent meeting over gender Bill

By Samuel Ouma

Uhuru Kenyatta with Raila Odinga
Uhuru Kenyatta with Raila Odinga

As the fate of two-thirds gender rule hangs in the balance following the firm stand taken by several legislators to vote against the Bill next week Wednesday, top leadership have called for crisis meeting to rally support for the Bill.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and the opposition leader Raila Odinga  have summoned Jubilee and ODM party Members of Parliament to a vital meeting on Tuesday, November 27, to try woo them support the Bill.

The two thirds gender rule requires the National Assembly and Senate not to have more than two thirds of members of the same gender.

“Not more than two thirds of members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender,” reads Article 81 (b) of the Constitution.

It requires the support of 233 Members of Parliament to pass out of 349. If it sails, it will take effect after 2022 polls and 21 more women will be nominated to Parliament. The current nominated women are 12.

The Bill, tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, has brought division along gender line. A number of male legislators have vowed to oppose the law describing it the epitome of laziness while complying with the constitutional requirements.

Others have expressed fear that the Bill will only benefit those who are close to the political parties’ leaders when supported saying those at the grassroots will be denied opportunities to choose who will represent them.

“The Bill does not provide a formula on how the slots meant for women will be filled. We have seen people nominating their girlfriends. It is true we need women in active political leadership but they must be women of substance,” reiterated one of the male legislators.

Some have warned the consequences of enacting the Bill. They hinted at unbearable cost of living to ordinary Kenyans who are now forced to dig deep into their pockets to cater for high cost of living due to 8% Value Added Tax on fuel and petroleum products legislated few months ago.

A section of lawmakers are wary of airing their opinions for fear of being debarred by their political parties and electorates.

“If I say I support this principle, my people will think that I’m the one who want to increase the wage bill of this country. But if I say I don’t support it, I will face the consequences from my party leadership. I reserve my comments and wish to make my decision during voting,” said a legislator.

However, women leaders are pretty sure the principle will sail through this time round. Led by Kenyan Women Parliamentarians Association chairlady Wangui Ngirici, they believe the problem associated with quorum will be overcome on Wednesday during the voting.

“I am aware that the leaders of political parties have committed to hold Parliamentary Group Meetings where members will be whipped over this matter. I can assure you that we will achieve quorum on that day,” she said.

The National Assembly has 349 members of which 76 are women while Senate has 21 women out of 67.


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