EQUALITY

Fake news frustrates two-thirds gender rule

It is not an issue of disempowering men but an issue of morality.

In Summary

• Most fake news touches on women’s sexuality, marital status and related family issues.

• It is meant to intimidate and expose them to ridicule and embarrassment as a way of pushing them off the political train.

Nearly a decade after the adoption of the 2010 Constitution, gender equity in representation at the national level has yet to be achieved.

The principle is clearly laid out in Article 27, which provides for equality and freedom from discrimination. It further provides that women and men have the right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres.

It requires the State to use the law and any other measures, including affirmative action programmes and policies, to ensure not more than two-thirds of members of elective or appointive bodies are of the same gender. The authors of the Constitution rightfully envisioned that a lot must start at representation in Parliament.

In the region, Kenya lags behind as far as political representation of women is concerned. Rwanda leads with a 64 per cent representation; Tanzania is at 36 per cent, while Uganda is at 35 per cent. Kenya trails with 23.2 per cent representation in the National Assembly.

Despite the fact that gender is big business the world over, Kenya still remains reluctant to implement gender parity. Rather than challenge the appeals of gendered norms that give patriarchy cover for aggressively pursuing, protecting and propagating power, the powers that be have vetoed the inclusion of women, fingers crossed hoping that the issue will go away silently.

Exposure to misinformation or similarly dubious and inflammatory content undermines the quality of women’s campaign, promotes misperceptions about women’s ability to lead, and fosters greater hostility, particularly towards women political opponents.

The call for gender parity is however not a women’s issue, but an issue of representation and inclusion. It is not an issue of disempowering men, or a means to secure free seats for women, but an issue of morality.

Women comprise more than half the population, but are easily unrepresented in high-level negotiations and decisionmaking facets, adversely affecting their development. They are absent on the front pages of newspapers (unless it’s a negative story) and in the boardrooms where decisions about their future are made.

In fact, women are largely underrepresented in elective seats as the political terrain has largely been skewed in favour of patriarchy and ethnicity.

The aspect of misinformation or fake news has also contributed to the increase of women’s underrepresentation in Kenya. A study by GeoPoll & Portland indicates that 90 percent of Kenyans accessed false or inaccurate news in relation to Kenya’s 2017 General Election, while 87 percent regarded this news as being deliberately misleading or fake news.

It is, however, important to note that the term fake news is non-existent as what is termed as fake cannot be news, hence the appropriate term is misinformation or disinformation.

Women are here and active, women are rising and it’s only a matter of time before they are heard, seen and adequately represented, then we will decry not implementing the gender rule as by then, men will be the minority.

A study by the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) in partnership with Unesco on the influence of fake news on women’s political participation indicates that 57 percent of women were subjects of fake news, especially during the 2017 general election. Most of the fake news touches on women’s sexuality, marital status and related family issues to intimidate and expose them to ridicule and embarrassment as a way of pushing them off the political train.

Exposure to misinformation or similarly dubious and inflammatory content undermines the quality of women’s campaign, promotes misperceptions about women’s ability to lead, and fosters greater hostility, particularly towards women political opponents. It is clear that new media has enabled patriarchy to thrive and take root, further offering leaks in the system that funnels women out, exacerbating their advancement.

Women have time again been forced to play in an uneven field, with their political candidacy only being viable in so far as it doesn’t endanger the political supremacy of men.

Women are here and active, women are rising and it’s only a matter of time before they are heard, seen and adequately represented, then we will decry not implementing the gender rule as by then, men will be the minority.

Communications consultant

@yvonneemwende/ [email protected]