Amend law to reserve 70 seats for women MPs

August 20, 2011 7:22 am
Formula to ensure one-third rule remains contentious/FILE

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 20 – The Kenya National Human Rights and Equality Commission insists that the proposal to set aside 70 rotational seats for women is the best way for the country to attain the one third representation in Parliament.

Chairperson Regina Mwatha told Capital News that Parliament should amend article 97 to legalise the provision of 70 seats to women since as it is, it remains unconstitutional.

“While on the other hand Article 34 of the Elections Bill provides that some constituencies on a circular basis of four years provides for women only candidates for elections. While this is a very good affirmative action, there is need to amend Art 97 (2) to make that clause constitutional.

She said the amendment can be done through a two thirds majority vote by Parliament and does not require the country to go to a referendum which she viewed would be a long and expensive process.

She said it was important for women to be given a platform of ensuring proper representation since for a long time, they have been left behind.

Ms Mwatha said as much as the provision for affirmative action was stipulated in the constitution, there was no process of achieving affirmative action.

“The clause to amend is Article 97 so that it can provide a procedure where Article 27 can be actualised. Is like saying that you want children to go to school, and you build schools and then there no roads for children to walk to school,” she explained.

She however said the amendment required the will and commitment of MPs in Parliament since the amendment will require two thirds majority for it to sail through.

“Affirmative action is about bending backwards and Parliament has to bend backwards to ensure affirmative action. This means a lot of political goodwill is expected especially from male parliamentarians who we have confidence will support us as they have demonstrated before,” she pleaded.

On Thursday the Cabinet stirred heated debate when it said that achieving the one-third representation was unattainable.

The Cabinet agreed to form a task force to prepare a Constitution Amendment Bill to deal with the one third gender representation requirement which it termed “technically unachievable under the current stipulation.”

The Cabinet however said that it had approved the Elections Bill, which had initially set out a formula through which the gender provision would be met.

The formula, which was first proposed by a women’s lobby group before being endorsed by the Interim Independent Electoral Commission, reserves 72 constituencies (that will be randomly selected) for single gender participation.

Under the new Constitution, Article 27 (8) states that the State shall take legislative measures to implement the principle that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender.

Further, Article 257 of the Constitution lays down a long procedure through which amendments may be introduced to the supreme law. It also states that amendments on matters that touch on some Chapters like the Bill of Rights (under which Article 27 (8) falls) must be subjected to a referendum.

Women Lobby groups have already gone to Court in the past accusing the Judicial Service Commission of ignoring the gender provision by only nominating one woman to the Supreme Court.

Concerns surrounding gender balance were also raised when President Mwai Kibaki first nominated the top three judicial nominees who were all men.


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