What you need to know:
- Male legislators in the past parliaments have faced allegations of thwarting efforts to pass the two-thirds gender law.
- Saku MP Dido Ali Raso, says male legislators have been a stumbling block in the passage of the law.
- Kimani Ichung’wa and Opiyo Wandayi, respectively, have vowed to lead the way in ensuring the two-gender rule is achieved.
Female legislators have stepped up efforts to push for the actualization of the two-thirds gender principle in the first year of the 13th Parliament.
For the past 12 months, women MPs have been rallying their male counterparts to support the enactment of the law on equal gender representation, which has remained elusive for a decade.
The passage of the two-thirds gender law has proven to be a wild-goose chase for legislators, with at least ten unsuccessful attempts spanning the 10th, 11th, and 12th parliaments.
Male legislators in the past parliaments have faced allegations of thwarting efforts to pass the law that would ensure neither gender occupies less than a third of the seats in both the Senate and National Assembly.
Saku MP Dido Ali Raso, says male legislators have been a stumbling block in the passage of the law.
“For those who have been in the august House long enough, our women colleagues have approached us several times to discuss this issue, but we have sat on our hands. It is time to give women the opportunity to exercise their leadership in this House by entrenching the two-thirds gender formula in the Constitution,” Mr Raso, a third-term MP said.
National Assembly Deputy Speaker Gladys Boss Shollei is optimistic that the current parliament will break through the impasse on the two-thirds gender rule before its term ends in 2027.
“The 13th Parliament will stand dissolved should we not implement the two-thirds gender rule. We have the political will from the highest office in the land – the President, who has called on us to ensure the law is in place. I look forward to the time the Bills will come to Parliament for debate,” said Ms Shollei as she gave her thoughts earlier this year on President William Ruto’s memo to Parliament urging legislators to hasten legislation to effect the two-thirds gender principle and ensure that no gender is under-represented.
The Uasin Gishu Woman Representative says the two-thirds gender rule is not about women but a human right.
"Many people think the two-thirds gender rule is a women's issue. No, it is not about women; it is a human rights issue. The right to equality. We must put it on record that the United Nations Convention on Human Rights, to which Kenya is a signatory, states that human rights are achievable immediately and not progressively. It is only social and economic rights that can be achieved progressively,” she says.
Marsabit Woman Representative Naomi Waqo, says some male legislators have been playing hide and seek when it comes to the enactment of the law on equal gender representation in Parliament.
“When we first started the debate, we thought many people were supporting us. In fact, in the 12th Parliament, Aden Duale (now Defense Cabinet Secretary) was very passionate, together with many other MPs. They tried to support us. We had many breakfasts, but at the end of the day, we did not succeed and they were nowhere to be seen,” she says.
“Today, it is us women fighting for this law, but in ten years, maybe we will be sympathizing with the male gender. Women have done a lot for this country to be where it is. When you look at the performance of women in every office they serve, you cannot compare with the men. They give their best and serve the nation with a lot of passion,” she adds.
On their part, male MPs, led by both the Majority and Minority leaders, Kimani Ichung’wa and Opiyo Wandayi, respectively, have vowed to lead the way in ensuring the two-gender rule is achieved.
“We can only encourage our women to fight it out in elections for us to eventually have elected members and not just nominated members in this House, to help us achieve the two-thirds gender rule. In the absence of that, we have no choice but to make amendments to the Constitution that will ensure we achieve this rule,” says Mr Ichung’wa.
Mr Wandayi agrees that the two-thirds rule can only be achieved through a constitutional amendment.
“This country has grappled with the issue of the two-thirds gender rule for years. I know many MPs, even some who speak negatively about it, know that we have a constitutional obligation to ensure that we achieve the two-thirds gender rule.
“The Supreme Court of this country, during the leadership of former Chief Justice Maraga, actually said Parliament was illegally constituted because it did not comply with the two-thirds gender rule,” said Mr Wandayi during the debate on President Ruto’s memo.
“We have an opportunity, as lawmakers, to change the Constitution and any other law that is here so that we can achieve the two-thirds gender rule as prescribed by the Constitution. The President is giving us ideas that we need to look at to ensure we achieve the two-thirds rule.”
Roysambu MP Kamande Mwafrika, expresses fear that President Ruto could effect the advisory by the former Chief Justice David Maraga and dissolve Parliament. “I am just imagining what would have happened if the former President did exactly what the Chief Justice had requested him to do – to dissolve Parliament due to this constitutional anomaly – this country would have been plunged into a constitutional crisis. That advisory is still lying on the desk of the current President,” he says.
Mandera South MP Abdul Haro, believes the two-thirds gender principle is the single most important issue of an 'existential threat' to the 13th Parliament if it is not handled properly.
“It is only fair that this issue is sorted out once and for all. The 12th Parliament couldn’t resolve this matter despite former CJ Maraga making a ruling on it. This is the time to make sure this matter is resolved once and for all.”
The hopes of achieving the two-thirds gender rule now rest on the ongoing bipartisan talks and a number of bills before the Senate and National Assembly.
Constitutional amendments to implement it are among the agenda before a 10-member team representing President Ruto's side of Kenya Kwanza and Raila Odinga-led Azimio la Umoja.
Among the bills seeking to actualize the two-thirds gender rule is the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2023, sponsored by Nominated Senator Beth Kalunda Syengo. The bill, which has undergone the second reading, proposes that the gender whose representation is below the one-third threshold gets additional nomination slots.