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February 21, 2019

What the Constitution says on gender

The Constitution of Kenya has brought in an introduction of the word gender. Although the term has all along been in our minds, the manner in which the Constitution has introduced it makes it very different from what you and I have all along viewed it to mean and or imply.

The Constitution has introduced the term as an avenue of bridging historical inequalities between men and women. It brings into play a vehicle of achieving social justice in Kenya.

The Constitution has many provisions which are centered on gender in respect to employment, nomination, political representation amongst many things. Things will never be the same on the gender platform in Kenya.

According to Wikipedia, gender is a range of characteristics of femininity and masculinity. Depending on the context, the term may refer to such concepts as sex ( that is the state of being male or female), social roles (as in gender roles) or gender identity.

Sexologist John Money introduced the terminological distinction between biological sex and gender as a role in 1955. Before his work, it was uncommon to use the word "gender" to refer to anything but grammatical categories.

However, Money's meaning of the word did not become widespread until the 1970s, when feminist theory embraced the distinction between biological sex and the social construct of gender.

Today, the distinction is strictly followed in some contexts, especially the social sciences and documents written by the World Health Organisation (WHO), but in many contexts, even in some areas of social sciences, the meaning of gender has expanded to include "sex" or even to replace the latter word.

Although this gradual change in the meaning of gender can be traced to the 1980s, a small acceleration of the process in the scientific literature was observed when the Food and Drug Administration started to use "gender" instead of "sex" in 1993.

Gender identity is the gender a person self-identifies as. One's biological sex is directly tied to specific social roles and expectations. Judith Butler considers the concept of being a woman to have more challenges, owing not only to society's viewing women as a social category but also as a felt sense of self, a culturally conditioned or constructed subjective identity.

Categorising males and females into social roles creates binaries in which individuals feel they have to be at one end of a linear spectrum and must identify themselves as man or woman.

Globally, communities interpret biological differences between men and women to create a set of social expectations that define the behaviours that are "appropriate" for men and women and determine women’s and men’s different access to rights, resources, power in society and even health behaviours. Although the specific nature and degree of these differences vary from one society to the next, they typically favour men, creating an imbalance in power and gender inequalities in all countries including Kenya.

The World Health Organisation defines gender as the result of socially constructed ideas about the behaviour, actions, and roles a particular sex performs.

The beliefs, values and attitude taken up and exhibited by them is as per the agreeable norms of the society and the personal opinions of the person is not taken into the primary consideration of assignment of gender and imposition of gender roles as per the assigned gender.

The assignment of gender involves taking into account the physiological and biological attributes assigned by nature followed by the imposition of the socially constructed conduct.

In the past being female characterised one as a woman, and being a woman signified one as weak, emotional, and irrational, and incapable of actions attributed to a "man".

This has become history. With the Constitution in Kenya women are now in the front line in the political, economic and social activities that were exclusive men only club members.

The current wind of change is not stoppable. The long journey into gender equality is on. Many a times it will have to be promoted by the courts through judgements.

The Supreme Court of Kenya recently pointed out that the change and move towards gender equality is one that will be realised progressively. The Chief Justice holds a different view. He believes that equality has to be achieved now.

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