KEWOPA wants gender balance provision implemented now
Campaigns for gender balance in parliament and outside have intensified with male and female legislators and constitutional experts coming into a coalition as each group fights to defend its stand based on the law and natural justice.
Despite clear deadlines for full compliance set for August 27, legal experts and parliamentarians seem to be struggling with the issue clearly set in the Constitution enacted on the same date in 2010.
The gender balance fire is now being fanned even more by the sponsor of the Constitutional of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, Justice and Legal Affairs Committee chairman Samuel Chepkong’a who is insisting for indefinite postponement of the implementation of the two-thirds gender principle.
Despite suffering high attacks through the media by women leaders and lawmakers across the board, Chepkong’a has interesting vowed not to withdraw the controversial bill defending its legality and arguing that the committee responsible had approved it.
Female lawmakers from the Senate and National Assembly are presently a team struggling to oppose the controversial section proposed by the chair National Assembly’s Justice and Legal Affairs committee.
This is under the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA) led by their chair, Cecily Mbarire.
They are against the suggestion that the gender balance issue be implemented progressively without the constitutional deadline which they say hinders the realization of the gender parity provision.
Clearly the women legislators are blazing for major political war saying that women leaders wanted to be respected and were not looking to acquire anything for freely.
Some of the members of the KEWOPA like the Nairobi Women Representative Rachel Shabesh have shown outright disgust with the proposal by Chepkong’a asking him and those supporting the plan to “give women a break”.
The gender balance law, the women argue is in the constitution and to change it would require a referendum, a needless affair because the same question was raised when Kenyans approved the constitution in 2010.
National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi has also been facing a barrage of attacks after he proposed the scrapping of the 47 Woman Representative seats and those allocated to 12 parties’ nominees suggesting that they be replaced with 100 special seats for affirmative action.
Admitting that the National Assembly would grown to 390, the speaker described that as the simplest way to fulfil the constitutional obligation that not more than two-thirds of members of elective public bodies should be of the same gender.
He was quoted as arguing that all formulas tried ended up with the increase in the number of legislators and there was need for the citizens to wake up to the reality of the gender balance rule. He said that the increased would only be by 41 and it would never go beyond there.
That he raised the issue during a Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians gender advocacy workshop in South Africa is interesting.
The speaker had suggested that the electoral commission would be mandated to come up with a way of electing the 100 special MPs to ensure gender parity.
Muturi made his proposal even as the sponsor of the Constitutional of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, seeking to indefinitely postpone the implementation of the two-thirds gender principle, vowed not to withdraw it and said the committee responsible had approved it.
Political parties have also joined women MPs in calling for the withdrawal of the Bill, which they say was unpleasant and a sabotage of the gender rule.
Chepkong’a has also offended the Commission on the Implementation of the Constitution with its chair Mr. Charles Nyachae dismissing the Bill as an affront to the supreme law which should be withdrawn.
What brings questions about how registration is initiated by the sponsors of such proposals in parliament is the insistence by Chepkong’a that government agencies, women groups, Non-Governmental Organizations including the KEWOPA participated in the process that resulted in the Bill.
He argued that nothing had been sneaked into the bill and that he presented to the full House and agreement was reached by consensus by the majority of the committee.
Leaders of political parties have said the bill was an attempt to postpone the implementation of the gender principle in elective positions. They expressed outrage that a committee funded by Kenyan taxpayers to advise Parliament has found it fit to assault a key principle and the integrity of the Kenyan Constitution against what is directed by Article 21 (3).
The Attorney General has also come under fire for what the political parties termed as a deliberate delay in the process reaching a gender balance intentionally and hence causing the present constitutional crisis.
The team’s statement was released to the media by the Centre for Multi-party Democracy’s deputy national chairman, Mr. Sande Oyolo.
“We are concerned that the AG has knowingly let the country run out of time and come at a crossroads on how to implement the constitutional gender principle,”, said Oyolo.
In her statements, Mbarire said that Chepkong’a never consulted all parliamentarians on the bill as he insists.
“We are not taking this matter lightly since the proposal is an attempt to kill the rights of women,” she noted.
Gladys Wanga, Homa Bay Women Representative asked women countrywide to strongly oppose the bill saying they had struggled for their positions and which were not gifts adding that women will not allow their rights to be infringed.
A majority of the women leaders have demanded that the two thirds rule must be complied with and women appointed to positions reserved for them in line with the Constitution without failure.
Nominated Mombasa Senator Emma Mbura said nobody is going to take women’s positions adding that women will not relent on this.
“The two thirds rule must be respected and women appointed to positions reserved for them in line with the Constitution,” said Mbura.
Male legislators, the ODM senator Agnes Zani said should embrace women in leadership positions particularly after the hardly fought for gender rule after 50 years of independence.
Most legislators asked President Uhuru Kenyatta together with opposition principals to rein on male MPs to ensure the controversial discriminative gender rule Clause does not see the light of the day when debated in the House.