Two-Thirds gender rule in parliament to stir reactions as debate kicks off

Female MPs walk into Parliament in headscarves to protest lack of full implementation of the two-thirds gender rule on August 29, 2018. /COURTESY

Do you remember female legislators walking to parliament with white head gears? Their efforts to have a two-thirds gender rule could have just started bearing fruits! Members of Parliament will today start debating on a Bill to increase the number of women parliamentarians.

The Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2018, sponsored by National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale seeks to ensure Parliament complies with the crucial two-thirds gender principle. The Bill is in the second reading.

A similar bid flopped in the last Parliament after male lawmakers ganged up to throw out the proposal, which was heavily backed by their women counterparts.

In a well-calculated move to defeat the Bill in last Parliament, male MPs boycotted the vote, denying the requisite numbers to have it pass. Some male lawmakers claimed the Bill was an affront to democracy, as it would give women “free seats” and give room for political bigwigs to nominate their girlfriends.

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The Bill creates special seats to women to top-up their numbers in the two Houses of Parliament.

The special seats – according to the proposed law – is estimated to ensure the bicameral house complies with the two-thirds gender rule after 20 years.

“A sunset clause of 20 years is included in the amendment with an option for extension for one further fixed period of 10 years as it is expected that by that time, enormous gains will have been made with regard to gender parity in elected MPs,” the Bill reads.

The Bill will raise the country’s wage bill for the new creations if it gets the MPs approval.

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It also seeks to cap to a maximum of two terms the nomination of a person to Parliament or county assemblies.

By limiting the nomination to two terms, the amendments seek to empower as many people as possible through the nomination slots.

According to the Constitution, not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender.

Currently in the National Assembly, there are 76 women – 23 elected, 47 woman representatives and six nominated. This means it falls short by 41 women to make 117, or one-third, of the 349 MPs.

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In the Senate there are 21 women – three elected members and 19 nominated – bringing the shortfall to 12. This means that if the top-up was to be done in the current Parliament, 53 more women would be nominated to Parliament. Do you think the bill should be passed into law?

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