MPs aim for elusive gender target

The National Assembly during a past session.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • But the Parliamentary Service Commission secured court orders refraining the President from acting on the advisory.
  • Ms Shollei proposes that the 47 county woman representative positions in the National Assembly be scrapped.
  • The bill, which was first introduced in the House on July 24, 2019, will require a plebiscite should the National Assembly and Senate approve it.
  • This is because it directly affects devolution, a protected clause in the constitution that can only be altered through a popular vote.

The National Assembly will from Thursday try to hit the elusive two-thirds gender rule target, with a Bill lined for debate in the House. 

The Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2019 by Uasin Gishu Woman Rep Gladys Shollei, seeks to actualise Articles 27 (8) and 81 (b) of the Constitution to ensure that not more than two-thirds of those in appointive and elective positions in public institutions are of the same gender.

Chief Justice David Maraga had advised President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve parliament for failing to enact the gender rule. However, the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) chaired by National Assembly Speaker Justine Muturi secured court orders refraining the President from acting on the advisory.

Ms Shollei proposes that the 47 county woman representative positions in the National Assembly be scrapped together with the post-election gender top-ups in the Senate and county assemblies. To achieve this, she is targeting articles 89, 90, 97, 98 and 177 for amendment.

“The number of members of the National Assembly, the Senate and the county assemblies shall, however, remain the same as the number existing before the coming into force of the law for the purposes of their unexpired terms,” the bill states.

Referendum

The bill, which was first introduced in the House on July 24, 2019, will require a plebiscite should the National Assembly and Senate approve it as it directly affects devolution, a protected clause in the constitution that can only be altered through a popular vote.

The bill seeks to create at least 179 positions for women in Parliament through election from specially created seats at the constituency level. There are about 18 women nominated to the Senate. In county assemblies, women take up mots of the over 800 nomination slots.

To cure the gender disparity in the Senate, Ms Shollei wants Article 98 (1) amended to have 94 senators elected — a man and woman — in each county. Additionally, she proposes that political parties, based on their strength in the House, nominate six senators, four of whom shall represent persons with disabilities and two members representing the youth and the elderly. There are 67 senators with each county having one elected person, 16 women nominees and four  nominated from persons with disabilities and youths ( a man and a woman from each demographic).

In the National Assembly, the bill seeks to amend Article 97 to increase the number of elected women to at least 136, some of which shall be mapped out and designated as single-member constituencies for women MPs.

Nominated members

It further seeks to increase the number of nominated members to 22 from the current 12 and limit the nominative seats to persons with disability.

The proposed nominations contain a sunset clause of 10 years from the date of the first General Election after the enforcement of the Act with a window of an extension for further 10 years but through an Act of Parliament.

The bill designates two adjacent constituencies in each county to be used as electoral units with the two forming a single-member constituency for women MPs.

For instance, in a county with an even number of constituencies like Kakamega that has 12, two shall constitute a single-member constituency reserved for women. For counties with an odd number of constituencies, the bill proposes that three with the least number of voters elect one woman.

This means that, in Nairobi with its 17 constituencies, 14 shall elect seven women MPs with the remaining three picking one woman MP. In the assemblies, the bill seeks to amend Article 177 to provide for the election of a woman MCA for at least every two wards.

In abolishing the nominative seats in the assemblies, the bill targets Article 89, so that the number of MCAs is limited to 1,450, being the electoral wards in the country.


dmwere@ke.nationmedia.com