21 April 2017

Uganda: Government Sued Over Women MPs Elections

Photo: Dominic Bukenya/Daily Monitor
Members of parliament debate (file photo).

Election of women members of Parliament by adult universal suffrage is unconstitutional, Dickwitington Kimeze and Sisimuka Uganda, a non-governmental organization, claim in an April 18 petition filed at the Constitutional court.

The petitioners want only women voting for women MPs and have attached the Electoral Commission and the attorney general as respondents. The petitioners say that section 8 (4) (II) of the Parliamentary Elections Act and the Local Governments Act in providing for the election of district women MPs and Local Government women councilors under universal adult suffrage are inconsistent with articles 78 (2), (3)& (4) and articles 180 (b), (c) and (d) of the Constitution.

In their petition, Kimeze and Sisimuka Uganda, say that the constitution requires parliament to enact a law prescribing the procedure for the election of district women members of parliament and local government women councilors.

Instead of taking into consideration the intention of what they call the "gallant men and women who made the Constitution" the petitioners say parliament in an act of "legislative laziness" applied the universal adult suffrage and it "shouldn't get away with it."

In the 1996 and 2001, electoral colleges were used to elect women MPs but in 2005 parliament amended section 8 of the Parliamentary Elections Act to introduce universal suffrage.

Now, through Denis Nyombi and Company advocates, Kimeze and Sisimuka Uganda say the universal adult suffrage system has denied women the right to determine who leads them and it also creates different classes of affirmative action.

"That universal adult suffrage is inapplicable to the election of any of affirmative action leadership position, and affirmative action in this respect has degenerated to negative discrimination as opposed to positive discrimination and its application was in error," the petition reads.

The petitioners who say they are ardent believers in democratic principles and gender balance, attack the universal adult suffrage as "a term overly broad and at times vague since it allows men to vote for women." Universal adult suffrage, they contend, was meant for strictly elections for directly elected members of parliament and the president therefore couldn't apply to district women MPs and local government woman representatives.

"That at the heart of this petition is the legitimate question: Why do men vote for women district members of parliament and local governments' women representatives?" the duo asks.

According to the petitioners, they find it strange that while men vote for district women MPs, the same doesn't apply to other leadership positions instituted under the auspices of affirmative action.

They point out that: workers vote for workers MPs, youths vote for youth MPs, soldiers vote UPDF MPs and also people with special needs vote for their own MPs.

They argue that the Constitutional court should "determine and pronounce itself on whether district women members of parliament and local government's women councilors are on affirmative action or it's a quota system."

Among other things, they want the same court to find that the Electoral Commission's continued holding of women MP and local government's women councilor elections under universal adult suffrage is a blatant violation of the Constitution, which "court must stop forthwith".


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