Members of Parliament Tuesday began debating the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill which, if passed, will allow for the nomination of more women to the House to comply with the two-thirds gender rule, amid opposition from some members.
The Bill, popularly referred to as the Two-thirds Gender Rule, provides that not more than two thirds of the members in appointive and elective public bodies, among them Parliament, should be of the same gender.
It seeks to amend Article 97 of the Constitution to create special seats for women, which will be filled by political parties depending on their parliamentary strength.
The Bill that seeks to actualise Article 81(b) of the Constitution could cost the country about Sh60 million in monthly salaries and allowances for the additional MPs.
Article 81(b) stresses the need to comply with the two-thirds gender rule in public bodies.
Moving the Bill, Majority Leader Aden Duale urged his colleagues to pass it to avoid the prospect of a petition to have Parliament dissolved if it fails.
The Constitution provides that anybody can seek Parliament's dissolution if it fails to enact a relevant law within the required time.
"Today is a historic day for the 12th Parliament. Let us vote for this Bill because the only persons who carried us for nine months are our mothers," Mr Duale said.
"Every man sitting here has a special place for our mothers, our sisters and daughters," he added.
Parliament has a deficit of 42 women, since only 75 were elected or nominated against a gender parity of 117. The Senate, with 19 women, needs four more to bridge the gap.
Women are among the groups marginalised politically, and the gender rule is required to mentor and give them the experience to compete effectively with men.
Mr Duale said Uasin Gishu Senator Margaret Kamar and MPs Naisula Lesuuda (Samburu West), Martha Wangare (Gilgil), Janet Teiyaa (Kajiado Woman Rep), are some of the success stories of the gender rule. They were nominated in the 11th Parliament but later contested and won seats in 2017.
Kangema MP Muturi Kigano's attempt to have the Bill dismissed on the basis that it is unconstitutional was dismissed by Speaker Justin Muturi, who ruled him out of order, even as Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa called for a procedure to nominate the extra MPs.
"We are not opposed to women getting more seats. What we want to know is the formula to be used because our women will be at the mercy of their party leaders," he said.