What you need to know:
- In his inauguration speech President William Ruto pointed to lobbying legislators to pass two-thirds gender rule.
- In 2012, the Supreme Court gave Parliament till August 27, 2015, to pass a law effecting the principle lest it be dissolved.
- In March 2017, the court ordered the two houses to pass the gender principle law within 60 days. They defaulted.
President William Ruto yesterday outlined his plan to hasten enactment of the two-thirds gender rule.
In his inauguration speech at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani in Nairobi, Dr Ruto pointed to lobbying legislators to pass the law.
“On the matter of gender parity, I am committed to the two-thirds gender rule as enshrined in our Constitution, will work with Parliament to fast track various legislative proposals and establish a framework that will resolve this matter expeditiously as promised in our manifesto,” he said.
In Article 27(8) on equality and freedom from discrimination, the 2010 Constitution provides that the State shall take legislative and other measures to implement the principle that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender.
But 12 years since its enactment, Kenya has not had a single law on the same. In 2020, retired Chief Justice (CJ) David Maraga advised the former President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve Parliament for failing in its mandate. But the advisory attracted six petitions prompting Deputy CJ Philomena Mwilu to appoint a five-judge bench to hear the petitions.
However, 10 petitions were filed at the Nairobi High Court objecting to the establishment of the bench on grounds that deputy CJ Mwilu did not have the constitutional mandate to do so. But in the February 2021 ruling, the bench dismissed the objections for lacking in merit. The bench is yet to give a ruling on Mr Maraga’s advisory.
Prior to Mr Maraga’s advisory, activist Margaret Toili and Law Society of Kenya had written to the former CJ appealing to him to advise the Executive to dissolve Parliament for failing to enact the two-thirds law.
The advisory was a last resort since Parliament had failed to honour court orders to do the same.
In 2012, the Supreme Court gave Parliament till August 27, 2015, to pass a law effecting the principle lest it be dissolved. Parliament extended the period to August 27, 2016. The deadline elapsed and nothing happened.
Later, Centre for Rights Awareness and Education and the National Women Steering Committee sued the National Assembly and Senate in the High Court for failing to enact the law.
In March 2017, the court ordered the two houses to pass the gender principle law within 60 days. They defaulted.
Meanwhile, three bills on the principle flopped which Katiba Institute observes in its website article on the issue as a clear act of mischief. The organisation blames the then political leaders for failing to lobby its members to pass the law.
"Neither the leader of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy, nor the President cared much to mobilise their parliamentary troops. It did not really matter: They assumed women would vote for them anyway,” it notes in its article on Parliament’s mischief on two-thirds gender rule
InformAction field coordinator David Oseko, lauds President Ruto’s commitment to see the law come to pass.
“It was in my expectation that he immediately embarked on the two-thirds gender issue because one, we have waited for too long and two, he had promised to address it once elected,” he told Nation.Africa.
His sentiments were supported by Africa for Equality Now regional coordinator, Judy Gitau.
“The time is now to enact the two-thirds gender law because women and men have a right to either elective or appointive leadership and their input is a phenomenon to Kenya’s development,” she said.
The United Democratic Alliance (UDA) has majority support in both the National Assembly and Parliament, and this was depicted in the recent election of speakers and deputy speakers.
Moses Wetangula (Kenya Kwanza) got 214 votes against 130 for Kenneth Marende of Azimio, to win the National Assembly Speaker’s seat.
Similarly, the deputy speaker slot went to UDA through Uasin Gishu Woman Representative Gladys Boss Shollei, who also becomes the second woman to hold that position after the late Dr Joyce Laboso who was then Sotik Member of Parliament.
It was the same case for the Senate where Amason Jeffah Kingi (UDA) became the Speaker after receiving majority votes of 46 out of the 67 senators.
While Meru Senator Murungi Kathuri (UDA) was elected uncontested for the position of deputy speaker after Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo withdrew from the race.
Political goodwill and the backing of the Parliament are major assets to passing laws in Kenya, and since Dr Ruto seems to have them, is a good sign that he is in a better position to fulfil the two-thirds gender provision.
“The participation of women in our governance does not make us lesser; it makes us greater and their role can no longer be nominal. It must be substantive,” he noted in his inauguration speech.