Kenya: Women MPs Threaten Suit Over Gender Rule

Women MPs may move to court to challenge the publication of the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill that seeks to postpone indefinitely the enactment of the two-thirds gender rule.

The Bill was introduced in the National Assembly last week by Ainabkoi MP Samuel Chepkonga, who also chairs the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee. But the MPs under the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association want the Bill withdrawn.

Article 27 of the constitution requires that no gender should have more than two thirds of public positions, either elected or appointed.

The publication of the Bill is a contradiction of the Supreme Court ruling, that the National Assembly enact the Gender Rule Bill by August 27 this year.

Led by Runyenjes MP Cecily Mbarire, the MPs said the publication of the Bill is unconstitutional as it is taking back the gains Kenya has made.

“As women leaders, we will not accept or support this Bill, she said at Parliament Buildings yesterday. “Commitments to achieve gender balance on leadership positions in Kenya are yet to be met and that must change.”

Nyeri women’s representative Priscilla Nyokabi, who is the vice chair of the Justice Committee that originated the Bill, accused her chairman of failing to engage the stakeholders.

“When the committee met in Mombasa the issue of progressive postponement was not on the agenda and we did not even look at it,” she said.

Nyokabi said Kewopa may be forced to come up with its own version of the Gender Requirement Bill, claiming that Chepkonga is tactfully delaying its enactment.

Nominated Senator Judith Sijenyi questioned the manner in which the Bill was being rushed yet the Senate Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights had not been consulted.

“Affirmative action must be implemented. Choices have consequences and we must adhere to the Supreme Court ruling,” she said.

Homa Bay women’s representative Gladys Wanga said the gains made by women have been achieved through a lot of struggle and should not be retracted.

She dismissed fears that having many women MPs in the House will balloon the country’s wage bill, saying that corruption is the biggest contributor to underdevelopment.

Under the proposed amendment Bill, the implementation of the gender rule will be rolled out progressively.

The Supreme Court ruled that the realisation of the gender rule was progressive, but gave the House until August 27, the fifth anniversary of the promulgation of the new constitution, to enact it.


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