Kenya is Refusing to have more Women in Parliament

The two-thirds gender rule currently dominating the headlines in Kenya is another unfortunate proof of the many disadvantages Kenyan women have to deal with. The parliament is struggling to pass a bill that will promote more equal gender representation. 

Currently, women only hold 172 of the 1,883 elected seats in Kenya, which is better than the 145 held after the 2013 elections. The Senate is comprised of 67 members: 47 elected senators from each county and only 16 women are nominated for gender balance and four other representatives of the youth and the disabled.

Despite these numbers, the Kenyan legislature is yet to achieve the two-thirds gender rule. The quest for better gender representation, however, is an unending battle in the legislature.

What the Two-Third gender Rule Actually Mean

The idea was introduced in 2010 by individuals that wanted to end the marginalization of women in politics. It is primarily targeted at creating equal gender representation in the parliament.

In relation to all elective parties in Kenya, the two gender rule stipulates that both the Kenyan National Assembly and Senate should not have a composition of more than two-thirds of one gender. But the bill has failed to pass on several attempts despite the intervention of the President and the Kenyan Supreme Court at some point. 

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]In a parliament that is not driven by issue-based lobbying, getting the required quota of male members of parliament to pass the bill will probably never happen.[/perfectpullquote]

It is now an 8-year long fight between female legislators and their male counterparts in government.

Since independence, Kenyan women have faced numerous injustice, many of which have fostered a highly patriarchal society. Women barely compete with men for key political positions and they are often sidelined in the private sector, too. 

Although patriarchy is a problem inherent in nearly all African societies, it is on another level in Kenya.

Why the Bill has Failed to Pass

The writers of the 2010 Kenyan Constitution did not make clear provisions for a gender quota in parliament and this makes any attempt of amendment difficult.

Equally, article 81 (b) of the constitution, which closely relates to this issue, did not provide guidelines on how to achieve the two-thirds gender ration. But history has not helped the case of those in favor of the bill.

Kenya’s political circle is historically patriarchal and men are in a default position to dominate women by beating them in elections.

Consequently, women only constitute 20 percent of parliament and raising a quorum to establish the framework to aid the passage the bill is nearly impossible.

In a parliament that is not driven by issue-based lobbying, getting the required quota of male members of parliament to pass the bill will probably never happen.

The risk of parliament dissolution for failure to implement the rule means that female legislators would lose their seats with the possibility of re-election highly unlikely.

With the competitive nature of Kenyan elections, getting these women back into office is perhaps the biggest obstacle to the two-thirds gender bill.

Where do Kenyans Politics go from Here?

As the female parliamentarians continue their push for the adoption of this rule, other minority groups should join the movement. 

Female marginalization is just one among the many injustices and segregations in Kenya and everyone must act now.

If this bill is passed, it will have a ripple effect on the entire Kenyan society and send a positive signal to other marginalized groups to fight for better inclusion.

It is through small wins like this that democracies flourish.

Kenyan male legislators are already eating a chunk of the government money through huge salaries and allowances. The least they can do to help their country’s democracy is to leave sentiments aside while a good bill such as this one is carefully considered and passed.

Muoki Musila is an Intern at African Students for Liberty in charge of African Programs. He is an Advanced Leaders with the same organization in charge of Social Media and marketing.