Pass gender Bill, Nasa chiefs urge lawmakers

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka with Kewopa leaders at the party headquarters, November 19, 2018. /DENNIS KAVISU
Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka with Kewopa leaders at the party headquarters, November 19, 2018. /DENNIS KAVISU

Nasa principals yesterday asked MPs to pass the two-thirds gender Bill which seeks to increase the number of women in Parliament.

The Bill sponsored by Majority leader Aden Duale will be debated today. It seeks to have at least 22 more women nominated to Parliament.

Nasa leader Raila Odinga said Parliament has continuously violated the rights of women by denying them the opportunity to have more seats.

"The Bill being tabled is meant to help the country realise the right to equality and freedom from discrimination for women as stipulated in the 2010 Constitution," Raila said in a statement.

Co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi said the Bill’s benefits outweigh the costs. Opponents say additional MPs will increase the wage bill.

"If passed into law, the Bill will streamline the activities of not only women but all Kenyans in national politics and policy making,"

Musalia said.

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Kalonzo said Parliament risks being dissolved because it is not properly constituted as required of the two-thirds gender rule.

"I’m aware some of your male colleagues have in the past frustrated the passing of the Bill through outright refusal to support it or by simply walking out during voting so as to deprive the House of the requisite numbers required for it to pass," Kalonzo said.

The two leaders spoke at their respective party headquarters where they received a delegation of Kenya Women Parliamentarians Association (Kewopa).

The women leaders had paid them visits to drum up support for the passage of the Bill.

A similar Bill flopped in the last Parliament after male lawmakers ganged up to defeat the motion by walking out.

The legislation requires support of two thirds of the House, 233 MPs, to pass.

Article 81 of the Constitution requires that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies be of the same gender.

On August 29, more than 40 female MPs walked into the House in white head scarfs to stir debate on the gender Bill. They protested against frustration from male counterparts.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto have previously rallied lawmakers to pass the Bill.

"I know some people are saying the Bill will increase the country’s wage bill. The earlier Bill has been amended and the seats that have been set have decreased according to our Constitution. I therefore humbly request the MPs to pass the bill so that we can prove we have fully heeded to what our Constitution requires of us," Uhuru said.

He was speaking speaking at a fundraiser at PCEA Berea Church in Gachororo, Juja town on Sunday. He promised to assist more women clinch elective seats in the next general election.

He, however, challenged women to stop waiting for nominations and instead compete for elective positions.

Ruto urged MPs to put their selfish interests aside and support women, saying they comprise half of the population.

He said it would be wrong to sideline women from positions of leadership.

There are 76 women in the National Assembly including 23 elected MPs, 47 woman representatives and six nominated members.

The Senate has 21 women members of whom 19 are nominated while three were elected.

Kenya ranks low in women representation with only 22 per cent of MPs being women. Rwanda ( 61 per cent) and Ethiopia ( 50 per cent) are the only African countries that have achieved the two thirds gender rule.

The Bill also seeks to limit the nomination of a person to Parliament or county assemblies to two terms.

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