11 December 2012

Kenya: Gender - Eyes, Ears On the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has, through a majority opinion, advised that the two-thirds, one-third gender principle in the Constitution does not have to be ... ( Resource: Kenya's Supreme Court Issues Opinion on Gender Rule )

Nairobi — The Supreme Court is due to deliver a landmark opinion on whether the one-third gender requirement rule should come into effect with next year's General Election or whether it is to be implemented gradually.

This is after Attorney General Githu Muigai moved to Kenya's highest court seeking a way out of the stalemate caused by the constitutional requirement that at least one-third of the members of the National Assembly be of one gender.

This requirement puts at 117 the minimum number of MPs from either gender, but the law does not offer a formula of ensuring this is attained should an election not produce the minimum number.

The AG argued that there is an ambiguity in the Constitution as a result of Article 81(b) which provides that "not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender".

However Muigai's application was opposed by a number of women's groups that argued the AG should not have taken the matter to the Supreme Court. They cited Article 163 (6) of the Constitution such an opinion of the Supreme Court can only be sought by the national government, any State organ, or any county government and only on any matter concerning county government.

The lobbies argued that the contentious gender issue did not involve country governments but only the Senate and the National Assembly.

Five judges of the Supreme Court ruled in November that it can rightly give an opinion on the matter because the issues raised touch on the National Assembly and affect the county governments.

Parliament will also be grappling with a government sponsored Constitutional (Amendment) Bill that seeks to deal with the one third gender rule.

The matter is critical because if a solution is not found the next Parliament could be declared unconstitutional if it fails to meet the threshold.

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