The August 2015 deadline deadline set by the Supreme Court towards the realization of the two-thirds gender rule in the National Assembly and Senate is fast approaching and there’s a general agreement that public goodwill is needed to make this possible.
The technical working group (TWG) on the realization of the principle, which is convened by the National Gender and Equality Commission has presented a mechanism on the realization of the principle, which the Acting NGEC Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Paul Kuria says is workable and can be contained.
The TWG group’s most preferred mechanism, among many other proposals is the lifting of Article 177 (1) (b) and (c) of the Constitution and importing it in Article 97 and 98 of the Constitution for representation in the National Assembly and Senate respectively as a formula to realize the two thirds gender rule. The move will not require a referendum but will be effected through a parliamentary initiative.
According to NGEC, the proposal will guarantee the precise realization of Article 81 (b) on the two-thirds gender rule in political representation after the 2017 elections. It will also see an increase in the number of members of marginalized groups including persons with disabilities and the youth.
The proposal will also enact the law envisaged in Article 177 (1) (c) and 100 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 that calls on parliament to enact such law promoting representation of the marginalized groups who include women, persons with disabilities, youth, ethnic and other minorities and marginalized communities.”
Speaking during a national gender forum convened on 26 March 2015 by the Heinrich Boll Stiftung, in partnership with AMWIK, Mr Kuria said: “Article 177 allows a competitive process where everybody presents themselves for competitive elections using the political parties as the vehicle for election. After the election, you switch on the Affirmative Action mechanism and for any gender that is underrepresented or will not have met the two thirds principle…we shall fall back to the political party lists to do the top up, proportionate to the number of seats each political party is awarded in the National Assembly.”
Mr. Kuria clarified that “if Kenyans in 2017 make a deliberate effort to elect persons with disability, women and men from minority groups/communities, the youth, then there will be no need to use this mechanism because most likely we can get 50/50. The more we elect women through a competitive process the lesser the chances and the likelihood of the nomination.”
On 11th December 2012, the Supreme Court of Kenya delivered a majority decision that the realization of the two-thirds gender principle under Article 81 (b) is progressive. In its ruling, the Supreme Court directed that Parliament is under an obligation to have a framework on realization of the two thirds Gender Rule by 27th August 2015. The AG subsequently set up a technical working group that has received proposals from Kenyans. The group comprises the NGEC, Attorney General’s Office, Ministry of Devolution and Planning, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, Office of the Registrar of Political Parties, Commission on the Implementation of the Constitution, Commission on Administrative Justice, Parliament, Kenya Women’s Parliamentary Association and FIDA-Kenya.
The Heinrich Boell Stiftung has been at the forefront in holding public forums to discuss proposals/workable solutions made towards the realization of the two thirds gender rule.
The forums explored the following;
• What are the proposed mechanisms currently being explored to meet the two thirds gender rule?
• What is the process towards meeting the 27 August 2015 deadline? • What are the possible implications of not meeting the deadline?
• How can the public be involved in the process?
Two of the forums were held in collaboration with AMWIK on 26 and 31 March 2015. The first gender forum drew a panel of discussants comprising Hon. Kenneth Okoth, MP for Kibra Constituency, Mr. Paul Kuria, the Acting Chief Executive Officer, National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC), Grace Maingi, Executive Director, Uraia Trust, Mr Willis Otieno, Advocate, Political, Governance and Elections expert and moderated by Ms. Daisy Amdany, co-convenor National Women Steering Committee.
Women’s gains not negotiable
Speaking at the forum, Ms. Grace Maingi said it was not negotiable to delete from the Constitution any gains that Kenya has made with regards to representation, equality and non-discrimination and dismissed claims that it would be expensive to effect the gender principle.
Stressing the need for fair representation in the country, Ms. Maingi urged Kenyans to shun their deep patriarchal thinking and support the process of effecting the gender principle.
“We need to put in place a mechanism to start changing people’s thinking and mentality and how they accept women, men youth and persons with disabilities (PWDs). We need to act, the way we took a bold step on devolution and the issues of having persons with disabilities in parliament. The claim that it would be expensive to increase MPs is a fallacy. Only Ksh1.4 of the annual budget is spent on parliament; there is need to address corruption instead of saying the mechanism will be expensive for the country.”
“If we are serious about development in country we must not bury our heads to patriarchy, issues affecting women youth and PWDs. What we need is public goodwill; if MPs are serious about the Constitution they should quickly enact any framework presented to them, be it whether to have a constitutional amendment, whether to amend the Political Parties Act, or whether to only have incentives for political parties.”
She advised Kenyans not to be careful not to be hoodwinked that the mechanism was too hard to effect. “This is a laborious walk, it might not happen but we must not give up, the way we went through the Constitution for many years. Kenya really does need fair representation. We need a parliament that reflects our society – youth, women, men, PWDS; we need diverse voices in parliament, not one voice, not people who all think alike…. we should not be a society that thrives on stepping on, discriminating and hating each other, otherwise we are doomed as a country. If we want prosperity as a country. We need to start being more open minded, embracing diversity, and that needs to begin with us accepting the two thirds gender principle.”
The second forum was held during the launch of the book: 86 and Counting; Women Leaders in Kenya’s 11th Parliament at a Nairobi hotel on 31 March 2015, whose panelists were three representatives from the technical working group on the realization of the two thirds gender principle, i.e., Mr Paul Kuria, acting CEO, NGEC, Ms. Christine Ochieng, CEO, the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) in Kenya, Commissioner Catherine Mumma of the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution and moderated by Governance, Gender and leadership consultant, Mr. Cyprian Nyamwamu.
About gender forum
The Gender Forum is a monthly public dialogue convened by the Heinrich Böll Stiftung since 2001, facilitating dialogue on pertinent national social issues with a gendered lens. It brings together scholars, lawmakers and implementers, civil activists, government institutions, students and the general public, aiming at increasing knowledge and effectiveness of policy and programmes. The forum is convened in Nairobi, in Kisumu (in conjunction with Kenya Female Advisory Organization KEFEADO) and it travels around Kenya in response to County interests.