Kenya fails to pass law on gender representation

From Sebastian Gatimu, Researcher, Governance, Crime and Justice Division, Institute for Security Studies, Nairobi. The article discusses the failure to pass a law to give effect to a Constitutional requirement in Kenya, to limit the representation of one gender to no more than 2/3rds of parliament:

On 27 April and 5 May 2016, a bill was tabled seeking to amend the Constitution to allow for more women to be nominated to Parliament. The proposal is also meant to ensure that the country complies with Article 27 of the Constitution, which calls for equality and freedom from discrimination. On both occasions, the bill was thrown out due to a lack of quorum in the Parliament. The bill states that if elected women do not meet the two-thirds gender rule, the remaining number must be filled through nominations. This bill would have provided new hope to break historical injustices against women in Kenya.
This idea is, however, also associated with tokenism – as argued by some of the MPs who boycotted or voted against the bill. Some argue that the situation of nominating additional women MPs may have weakened healthy competitiveness among women in the political arena. Proponents of the bill, however, counter that it would have provided an opportunity for Kenya to start living up to the commitments outlined in the Constitution.
The most important intervention needed would be to establish a level playing ground for political competitors, across gender lines. This can only be happen if the leadership is committed to affirmative action and women empowerment, as has been the case in Rwanda.
Many Kenyan women who have tried carving out a political career have directly or indirectly had their aspirations thwarted due to entrenched patriarchal views.

On the failure to pass the two-thirds guarantee law in Kenya

On 5 May, Muthoni Kamuru writes that the failure to pass the Duale Bill was a failure for the rule of law as the Constitution adopted in 2010 mandated that the parliament should be no more than two-thirds occupied by one gender. Muthoni talks about the need to pass the Bill as a democratic necessity. 

Wilfred Ayaga and Jacob Ng'etich write on 6 May about the reasons given by male politicians for voting the Bill down. They report that "John Njoroge (Kasarani) said he boycotted the vote as the bill gave room for people to nominate their ‘girlfriends’ to the House. The quote is “This House is already bloated. This is another way of giving people’s girlfriends free tickets. Women should fight on an equal footing with men."

Women's empowerment in Kenya


Importantly while the Kenyan Constitution talks about better representation it is necessary to take action to change the electoral law to achieve that goal.

On the comments to Grace's post we can see the old arguments against gender reform -

First blame foreigners, then cite religion to justify protecting 'patriarchal culture', next talk about merit and there should be no 'easy street' for women.

Another line - women ask for equality - equality means competition - women should compete fairly.

If these arguments fail, what about blaming women - 'women have a long way to go,they are not ready for big roles in leadership due to their jealous and lack of respect for others combining with personal stress,domestic and stupidity'. Nice.

Finally 'These gender issues really annoy me. Why should women be favoured against men? It really makes no sense.'

Equal gender representation is about democracy. Democracy defined in terms where the domination of men is somehow invisible is no more democratic than slavery.

Interestingly, Grace posed the question in her article 'why don't more women just run for political office?'

'... it’s easy to ask, why don’t more women just run for political office? Kenyans are just as likely to elect women as they are men. Our constitution even ensures that neither men nor women occupy more than two-thirds of Parliament, and right now, policymakers are developing legislation that would help the country meet this requirement. But that’s still not law that can be implemented by 2017 elections.

No more than two-thirds rule for Kenyan parliament fails to become law

David Mwere writes about women's representation in the Kenyan parliament following the failure of a bill to require no more than two-thirds of the parliament be made up of one gender. He discusses the differences between descriptive, substantive and symbolic representation:

The gender principle in political representation is meant to ensure equity between the two genders. No gender should be more than two thirds of those in elective and appointive public positions. The world over, there are three types of gender representation that have been tested and tried. They include descriptive, substantive and symbolic representation.

Descriptive representation is something like what we are trying to achieve – to have as many women as are needed to achieve what Article 81 of the constitution requires. In substantive representation, the quality, performance and effectiveness of representation come into play as opposed to the merely descriptive.
In this case women are not just chosen for the sake of it, it is their ability to deliver that will inform the end. However, in Kenya we are not yet at this stage. This means before we reach substantive or quality representation, we have to pass through the descriptive route to give the women the pedestal or an opportunity to flourish, nurture and mentor before moving to the next stage.
It is also important to note that the entry point to descriptive representation is a third, or what is called the critical mass, or 33.33 per cent. This critical mass helps to build role models that also add a critical voice. Until we transit through descriptive representation, we cannot say we have the quality of women to provide proper representation, oversight, legislation and budget making.
The few women that we have in the 11th Parliament have been branded “flower girls” because of their inability to discharge their duties effectively.
In symbolic representation, we are talking of a window-dressing public relations exercise. It is a case of a single voice in the wilderness, a voice that cannot move the women’s agenda. This is tokenism representation and is replicated by having at least a woman at the top level of any government agency, whether ministerial, commission, independent office or parastatal.