Blow to Kenyan women as Members of Parliament opt to make two-thirds gender rule 'progressive'

The prospect of more women joining the country's politics on the back of a constitutional requirement was shattered yesterday with the publication of a new Bill that makes it "progressive" for that requirement of at least one-third of all elected or appointed officials to be from either gender.
The move came as the final plot in the scheming of lawmakers to dodge the judicial deadline to make sure that the number of women in the country's bicameral Parliament entered the penultimate stage.
The MPs quickly bulldozed the Bill into the First Reading just a day after it was published, because, they were headed for a month-long break. They said they want to amend article 81(b) to ensure that laws for women inclusion in political seats is done "progressively".
"We want to make sure that this is progressively achieved over a period of time," said the chairman of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee Samuel Chepkonga.

The lawmaker, backed by the Majority Leader Aden Duale, said the decision to go for the
"The consequence is that this House and the Senate will be unconstitutional, because the number of women will be less than one-third. That means any Kenyan can go to court to seek the dissolution of this House," said Chepkonga, who signed the Bill.
The MPs decision for progressive implementation is meant to deal with the possible ballooning of the wage bill, if MPs go for the top up of women, a move in which experts argued are likely to push the number of MPs to 435.
The amendment of the Constitution is the quickest way to go around the bid for a referendum, because any attempt to increase the number of MPs will require a referendum; and that is what the MPs are keen to avoid.
The House read the Bill for the first time and it will now spend 90 days in the public space before it is debated and approved. It will then go to the Senate and go around the same process again, and only then, after it is passed, shall it be forwarded to the President for approval.
The new Bill to amend the Constitution seeks to indefinitely postpone the quest for having a third of women in elective or appointed offices.
The Constitution of Kenya (amendment) Bill, 2015, to make the realization of the constitutional requirement for neither gender to occupy more than two thirds of public positions possible, will now have to be implemented "progressively."
This is part of a move by MPs to sidestep the legal deadline that the Supreme Court issued for them to make sure that the number of MPs in the House conforms to that requirement. The deadline expires on August 27, and by then, the MPs expect that the Constitution will have been amended.

The MPs' argument has been that any other way to go around the process will be long and will require a referendum.
The move is a loss to the women in the country, who had hoped for the law to speed up affirmative action especially in the elective political positions.
The clause to be amended is 81(b), and MPs insist that even laws will be made to allow for the "progressive" inclusion of women in nation-building.

An Abridged version of this story was published here


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