29 August 2011

Kenya: Cabinet Backs Down On Bid to Drop Gender Rule

Female Members of Parliament and gender rights lobby groups are standing their ground, promising to reject any efforts to amend the constitution, in ... ( Resource: Gender Representation Issues Rage On in Kenyan Cabinet

The Cabinet on Monday appeared to backtrack on its decision to drop the constitutional requirement to give women more seats in Parliament.

Two ministers sitting on the sub-committee on the Constitution said they had discussed options to be tabled to the Cabinet. This, they said, would ensure compliance with the one third gender rule in all public positions.

"We may require a constitutional amendment to cure the problem of implementing that particular provision, this is under serious discussion. It requires very careful handling because it is not a favour we are doing the women of Kenya," said one of the ministers who attended the meeting.

The Constitution says that not more than two thirds of the members of elective and appointive public bodies shall be of the same gender.

An opinion poll released last week by Infotrak Harris said 74 per cent of Kenyans support the clause. The Tenth Parliament has only 22 women MPs.

Dropping the requirement, last week, the Cabinet argued that it would be "technically impossible" to achieve it in the 2012 elections.

A source said the sub-committee explored the possibility of addressing the matter using Article 177 of the Constitution. The section directs political parties to observe gender equality when making nominations to Parliament and County Assemblies.

Article 177(b) on the composition of County Assemblies, says parties shall provide "the number of special seat members necessary to ensure that no more than two thirds of the membership of the assembly are of the same gender."

"The article ensures that where there is a shortfall, the political parties, based on the total number of votes they have received in the General Election, nominate women to bridge this gap," said the minister, who sought anonymity so that he is not seen to be discussing Cabinet secrets.

The proposals will be discussed during the next Cabinet meeting set for later this week, the ministers said.

First Lady Lucy Kibaki has, however, supported the Cabinet, saying it was hard for the provision to be implemented without infringing on other aspects of the Constitution.

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