How to have gender parity in Parliament

Women march along Nairobi streets on September 23, 2020 in support of Chief Justice Maraga's advisory to President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve Parliament for failing to enact the two-thirds gender rule. 

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The total membership of Parliament will then be 394, down from the current 416.

Several unsuccessful attempts have been made at creating a legal framework for achieving the constitutional provisions on gender representation in Parliament.

Many observers are now convinced that it’s nearly impossible to come up with democratic and fair “legislative measures” for attaining the goal of equitable gender representation. An amendment to the Constitution itself is inevitable.

The key to realising the aspiration on equitable gender representation lies in appreciating the role of Parliament under the Constitution.

Kenya’s bicameral Legislature consists of the National Assembly and the Senate, whose respective roles are set out in the Constitution.

A reading of Articles 94, 95 and 96 of the Constitution reveals that the role of Parliament is essentially three-fold: Representation, legislating (making laws) and oversight (checking the Executive).

It is not the role of parliamentarians to implement “development” projects at the constituency or county level, whether the projects belong to the national or county governments.

Past proposals on attaining gender representation equity have outlined complex or undemocratic approaches such as mixed member proportional representation, party lists and nominations.

With the appreciation of the proper role of MPs, it will be easy to reorganise the composition of the two Houses using a simple and democratic formula. The suggested reorganisation will involve reducing the number of constituencies from 290 to 150.

Every constituency will then elect one woman and one man to the National Assembly, thereby achieving a 50-50 gender balance.

Likewise, every one of the 47 counties will elect a woman and a man to the Senate, though that would raise the membership marginally — from 67 to 94. The total membership of Parliament will then be 394, down from the current 416.

There will be no need for nomination of members to either House. All sectors of society — including youth, persons with disabilities and workers — will be represented by the 394 parliamentarians.

A slight variation of the above proposal can also be applied to the county assemblies.

Samuel N. Mwaniki, Nairobi

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The Chief Justice Maraga may have advised the President to dissolve Parliament but the two-thirds gender law is unattainable. The Constitution grants every desirous Kenyan the eligibility to vie for any elective position unconditionally.

 There is no applicable criteria that can justifiably harmonise the rule. Just like men, women must vie for elective positions. Realistically, the gender rule is impractical in a democratic nation.

Alex Wachira, Laikipia