Parliament must ensure implementation of gender rule
The National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) wants Parliament to fast-track the realization of the two thirds gender rule ahead of the 2015 deadline.
According to Winnie Lichuma, the Commission’s chairperson, the deadline set by the Supreme Court is fast approaching but Parliament has yet to offer direction on how the country will effect the two-thirds gender requirement in the National Assembly and Senate.
“Parliament should enact the necessary legislation to cater for a mechanism to achieve the two thirds principle at both the Senate and National Assembly,” Lichuma said during the conference on Devolution and Women Leadership held in Naivasha jointly organised by NGEC, National Women Steering Committee and Action Aid.
Noting that Parliament has several alternatives at its disposal which could help fast track the process, Lichuma said: “One is to amend the Constitution to allow for a ‘gender top up’ as happened in the county assemblies should the number of women elected in parliament fail to reach the at least one third of the total.”
Article 177 of the Constitution specifically provides for immediate realisation of one-third representation of women in county assemblies. Failure to meet this threshold in the March 2013 elections led to the nomination of about 600 women across the country’s 1,450 county wards.
Parliament can also re-examine both the Political Parties and Elections acts to compel the relevant institutions to ensure the one third women representation threshold is achieved during the primaries,” explained Lichuma.
She noted that while Article 81(b) is very clear that we shall not have more than two thirds of the same gender in the National Assembly and Senate, there is no mechanism as to how this is to be realised.
Lichuma noted that players must work towards the realisation of the deadline set by the Supreme Court on the Constitutional provision calling for a mandatory at least one third gender representation.
The National Gender and Equality Commission has already established a technical team to develop a framework on how the two thirds gender rule is to be realised.
“We must work towards developing a framework in line with the August 2015 deadline set by the Supreme Court,” she affirmed.
Lichuma said the incessant exclusion of women in top decision making platforms was to blame for the prevailing gender inequalities in the country. She urged governors to support initiatives that seek to develop a formula to help achieve gender parity at all levels noting that unyielding patriarchal political culture continue to undermine women’s participation in competitive politics.
“Our cultural practices continue to deny women an opportunity to serve in elective positions and this was noticeably mirrored during the last elections. I saw women cry because some had won during the political party primaries but were short-changed at the last minute and their certificates handed over to opponents,” she explained.
Noting that Kenyan people voted overwhelmingly for the Constitution, Lichuma reiterated that they must reap highly from devolution which is meant to promote inclusion by ensuring that previously marginalized groups are brought on board.
“We need to celebrate the numbers. We need the presence of women, youth and persons with disabilities at all levels of leadership,” she said.
While the Constitution provides for equal gains and benefits for both genders in our country, discrimination continues to undermine women’s gains in the Constitution.
“We cannot have sustainable development in Kenya without gender equality. Women must also take advantage of the prevailing political goodwill and set the gender agenda and push for inclusion in this country,” Lichuma noted.
At the same time, she said that nominated representatives must be accorded the same privileges as their elected counterparts.
“It is discriminatory for any county assembly to discriminate against nominated members. The Affirmative Action seats do not make the holder any lesser a member of the county assembly,” Lichuma reiterated. She added: “If there are any privileges being enjoyed by the elected members of the county assembly, the same privileges must be accorded to their nominated counterparts.”
The Constitution disallows discrimination in Article 27 (5) and, therefore, any actions that promote discrimination are unconstitutional.
“NGEC shall monitor, audit and shame leaders who fail to comply with the two thirds gender rule,” she said..