When scores of MPs stayed away from Parliament on the day they were supposed to be voting for the Gender Bill on November 28, many interpreted it as open defiance to their party leaders, who had publicly lobbied them to support the Bill. Because the members present did not meet the quorum, Majority leader Aden Duale proposed moving further debate and voting to February 2019.
But, as an MP who spoke to the Nairobi Law Monthly reveals, it was all part of a clever scheme to get around the divisive constitutional provision.
“There has been talk among members of parliament to amend the law to exempt all elective bodies in the country from the constitutional requirement of the two-thirds gender rule. I can tell you that this is the position of senior people in government, and even in the opposition,” the MP said.
“The idea of a referendum is real, and members are being quietly whipped to support it when it is introduced. The grumbling amongst some about the fairness of dishing out free seats to women has found traction with top echelons of government, and the plan now is to scrape off nomination slots for elective posts altogether. If you ask me, the roadmap towards a parliamentary system is beginning to take shape!”
According to the MP, Duale’s justification for deferring the Bill is a roundabout way of protecting government from being blamed for not whipping members enough to carry the day, in the event the vote was taken and lost.
The argument by those opposed to the law is that for decades now, enough resources have been channelled towards empowering women to be at par with men academically – including affirmative action in appointments – and that it is no longer acceptable to dish out “freebies” to one gender at the expense of another. In their opinion, women no longer belong to special groups – which include persons with disabilities.
Meanwhile, two voter petitioned Chief Justice David Maraga to advise the President to dissolve Parliament for failing to pass the Gender Bill. Stephen Owoko, who is chair of the Independent Candidates Caucus, and John Wangai, an activist, want the CJ to declare Parliament unconstitutional for failing to pass the two-thirds gender bill.