EQUALITY

There goes quest for gender parity

It has taken parliamentarians a record seven years and it could take more years to enact the law.

In Summary
  • Two elections have been held without an iota of evidence of bridging the gap in both chambers.
  • The matter should be referred to a referendum.
Female MPs walk into Parliament in white headscarves to protest lack of full implementation of the two-thirds gender rule.
Female MPs walk into Parliament in white headscarves to protest lack of full implementation of the two-thirds gender rule.
Image: COURTESY

One issue that deserves space in the Guinness Book of Records is the noisy divisive gender parity debate, which seems endless in Kenya.

It has taken parliamentarians a record seven years and it could take more years to deliberate on the possibility of enactment of a law that could have seen at least a third of the seats in the legislature occupied by one gender.

Female lawmakers, victims of the age-old disparity, accused male colleagues of thwarting efforts to enact gender parity into law. Women constitute the largest voting bloc in Kenya but have remained the minority in the legislature and other public institutions since Independence. Ironically, men constitute the majority of nominees for elective posts, even in women-led political parties.

From the look of things, the debate could be consigned to the deep freezer thanks in part to the belated authoritative disclosure that balancing elected representatives in the legislative bodies is the responsibility of political parties, not parliament.

None other than National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, a lawyer by training, said that nowhere in the Constitution is it stated that Parliament will enact a gender parity law as insinuated by a section of the legislature and civil society.

The 2010 Constitution states that not more than two thirds of elected leaders should be of the same gender. Two elections have been held without an iota of evidence of bridging the gap in both chambers. The matter should be referred to a referendum.

Before embarking on the debate lawmakers, including senior constitutional lawyers, failed to detect the anomaly that almost cost them seats mid-term. Gender balance is a right but it is not achievable through an election.

Only political parties can save the vulnerable groups, including the neglected gender, Muturi said that much in a candid talk with a female journalist.

Overhauling electoral laws is an inevitable option and easy way out of a fuss over nothing. Proportional representation system is a solution not only to the gender parity issue but a remedy to a number of election-related problems, including poll costs and petitions after every election.

Voter bribery, ethnicity, chaos, and name-calling, which characterise campaigns, are things of the past in jurisdictions where there is proportional representation and voters choose parties instead of belligerent individuals.

South Africa is an example of a system where legislative chamber slots are allotted according to votes cast for each party, whose irrevocable exhaustive list guides the polls agency.

Party leaders worth their name should wake up and help steer the country out of the political quagmire and anxiety every election cycle. The entities are supposed to espouse democratic ideals as opposed to complicity in dictatorial tendencies.