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Kenya:Heated debate over two thirds gender rule gains momentum as Parliament’s dissolution looms

November 22, 2018

By Samuel Ouma

A record 22 women had by Thursday won constituency seats in the last  General Election. PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

A record 22 women had by Thursday won constituency seats in the last General Election. PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Divergent opinions and persuasion have clouded two gender rule debate among leaders as the Parliament in the last ditch to implement the law eight years since the inauguration of 2010 Constitution.

The two thirds gender rule states that the National Assembly and Senate should not 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.

The Bill had failed more than ones in both houses due to lack of quorum amid Court’s warnings that the failure to legislate it would see the Parliament dissolve. In May 2016, the bid to enact the law failed as only 194 legislators were present; 178 supported it and opposed by 16.

In November same year, there was a similar quorum hitch at the National Assembly as well as at the Senate in 2017 after the House failed to get 45 members to support it.

In 2015, the Kenya National Human Rights, Center for Human Rights Education and Awareness and Community Advocacy and Awareness Trust sued the National Assembly and Senate for failing to honor Supreme Court’s directive in 2012 to pass the law by August 2017, 2015.

“We are of the majority opinion that legislative measures for giving effect to the one-third-to two-thirds gender principle, under Article 81 (b) of the Constitution and in relation to the National Assembly and Senate, should be taken by August 27, 2015,” said a bench of Supreme Court judges back in 2012, two years after the promulgation of new constitution. The Attorney-General’s office had sorted following uncertainty surround the implementation of the law.

Top country leadership led by President Kenyatta has appealed to members of both Houses to support the bill to fulfill the requirements of the constitution urging women to come out and fight for positions.

“Do not wait for nominations, wake up and compete with men because Kenya is yours, you are populous and I want to help you settle leadership positions before the end of my tenure. You have been born leaders but men have been inflicting fears in you,” the President said.

The deputy President William Ruto also urged the Parliamentarians to pass the two thirds gender rule saying the Bill will bring to an end the gender imbalance in management of State affairs.

“You have a moment to make history by passing the bill so as to eliminate marginalization of women in our country. We should not stand in the way of development of our daughters, wives and mothers. We should give them the opportunity to be great citizens of our country by passing the bill,” reiterated Ruto.

On his part, the opposition Chief Raila Odinga implored leaders to support the Bill saying it will spearhead the country towards realizing equality as well as freedom from discrimination for women.

However, trouble looms as several legislators are expected to vote against the Bill which was once tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, November 20, 2018 by Majority Leader Aden Duale.

Some have publicly oppose it on the ground that it will cost Kenyans heavily, bloat the house and others have argued that the Bill does not provide formula for picking women to attain the threshold.

“I ask my fellow colleagues to reject this bill. It does not give an opportunity for the rural woman to choose who will represent them in Parliament. It instead grants political parties’ leadership powers to bring their girlfriends through nominations,” argued Kimilili legislator Didmus Barasa.

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