The clamour for more women representation in Parliament yesterday elicited mixed reactions from lawmakers.
MPs held a spirited debate on the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2018, sponsored by Majority leader Aden Duale, seeking to ensure that the two Houses comply with the two-thirds gender prescribed by the Constitution.
MPs are expected to either endorse or reject it on Thursday.
Currently, there are 76 women in the National Assembly — 23 elected from constituencies, 47 women representatives and six nominated.
The Senate has 21 women senators who include 19 nominated and three elected members. Elected senators are Fatuma Dullo (Isiolo), Margaret Kamar (Uasin Gishu) and Susan Kihika (Nakuru).
If the law were to be passed and apply to the current term, the National Assembly would require 20 additional women and Senate two more women to meet the gender principle.
The National Assembly has 349 members while the Senate has 67 members. The new changes would push the number of MPs to 438.
Kenya ranks low in women representation with only 22 per cent of MPs being women behind Rwanda (61 per cent) and Ethiopia (50 per cent) — the only African countries that have attained the two-thirds gender parity according to World Bank data.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto, ODM party leader Raila Odinga and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka have all implored their party MPs to pass the Bill.
Yesterday, Majority leader Duale urged members to endorse the amendment to safeguard the Constitution.
Duale told the Star: “We need to make a decision as a House to actualise a provision in the Constitution which has not been implemented since 2010.”
But Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa told a press conference —later raised in the House —that the Bill lacked modalities on how the women would be picked to attain the threshold.
He expressed fear that if the Bill sails through as it is, women at the grassroots would be shortchanged in nominations to the House by those favoured by political party “owners”. Barasa said:
I ask my fellow MPs to reject this Bill as it is because it does not give an opportunity for the rural woman to choose who will represent them in Parliament. It instead grants political parties’ leadership powers to bring slay queens through nominations.
We have seen people nominating their girlfriends. It is true we need women in active political leadership but they must be women of substance. I want to tell the Majority leader that this Bill is dead on arrival.
But Duale swiftly dismissed Barasa, saying it was mandatory for Parliament to pass the Bill so as to abide by the provisions of the Constitution.
The Bill requires the support of 233 MPs (two-thirds of all the members) to pass. If it sails through the House and is assented to by the President, it will be effective after the 2022 General Election.
Article 81 of the Constitution requires that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies be of the same gender.
If the Bill sails through as it is, Kenya will incur at most Sh500 million every year for 20 years starting 2022 to cater for Parliament’s two-thirds gender requirement.