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Kenya: MPs in Push to Abolish Controversial Gender Rule

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MPs want the elusive two-thirds gender requirement on elective posts deleted through a referendum, arguing it is impossible to attain.

The lawmakers argue that it is not possible to force Kenyans to vote a woman candidate in a democratic exercise; hence the requirement should be deleted and only observed in appointive positions.

The Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee Chairman Jeremiah Kioni said the two-thirds gender rule was only agreed by politicians during the drafting of the 2010 Constitution to stabilise the country and cool tempers.

“There is none of the formulas that have a solution to the implementation of this rule because you cannot take away my right on who to vote for. It is not implementable,” Mr Kioni said in a plenary discussion on the thorny issue on Thursday.

“This is our Constitution, let us live with its contents. Let’s change what we can and live with other provisions, and I don’t think someone can dissolve Parliament over two-thirds gender rule.” National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi said Parliament has done what is humanly possible to implement the rule, but has not made headways.

Preferential treatment

“You cannot compel citizens to elect either men or the other gender,” Mr Muturi said.

Deputy Minority Whip Maoka Maore said execution of the two-thirds rule amounts to preferential treatment of one gender and cannot work on elective positions.

“I have a daughter in high school, why I’m I not allowed to pay less school because of her gender,” posed Mr Maore.

After failing a record five times to pass the two-thirds Gender Bill, anyone at the moment can petition the Chief Justice, who shall then advise the President to dissolve Parliament.

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has petitioned the CJ on the matter. However, Majority Leader Amos Kimunya scoffed at the LSK petition.

“There are some noises being made outside there by somebody calling himself a President of a society that he can dissolve Parliament. Let us see if he can do that,” Mr Kimunya said.

According to Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo, dissolution of Parliament on account that it is not properly constituted may also mean that all the laws it has passed since 2016 are illegal.

Committee of Experts

Dr Amollo, who is one of the drafters of the 2010 Constitution having sat in the Committee of Experts, said the only way out of the situation is to delete the requirement from the Constitution, a move which will require a referendum.

“We have a looming danger because where we are today, it is possible for the President to dissolve Parliament and we go for fresh elections,” Dr Amolo said.

He, however, said the dissolution of the chambers of the House may not provide a solution, saying even in the fresh polls more men will find way back to Parliament and the cycle may continue.

Murang’a Woman Rep Sabina Chege, however, said there is still room for conversations on the matter and it should not be seen as a woman but a gender issue.

Section 27 of the Constitution requires both levels of government to ensure that neither gender has more than two-thirds of public officers, whether elected or appointed.

Under the rule, the dominant gender should only occupy 66 per cent of public offices. Currently, men dominate the National Assembly as only 59 out of 349 MPs are female.

There have been four attempts by the National Assembly to enact the Gender Bill, with the most recent one being on February 27 last year.

The bill was supposed to have been enacted within the first five years after the promulgation of the new Constitution.

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