Actualizing women's rights under the new constitution in Kenya
On March 29, the SID Regional Office for Eastern Africa convened a meeting of experts including members of the Kenyan government, representatives of civil society, and academics in order to discuss possible actions to guarantee the implementaiton of women's political rights envisaged under the new Kenyan constitution.
The previous constitution in Kenya was not sufficiently representative of women, disadvantaged groups and minorities with the result that their voices, opinions and perspectives were therefore not heard within the public policy making process. Through a consultative process of reforms that culminated in the new Kenyan constitution in 2010, a proportional representation electoral system has been endorsed. Women's demands of political representation have been captured in the new system. It is envisaged (articles 27/8 and 81b) that the State shall take measures - legislative and of other kind - to implement the principle that 'no more than two-thirds of members in elective or appointed bodies shall be of the same gender'. Despite that, the implementation of this principle has resulted to be very controversial.
This debate has raised much attention in Kenya due to the fact that if the principle is not complied with, then this could render the two Houses - the National Assembly and the Senate - unconstitutional after the 2012 General Elections.
It is therefore important that discussion and consultations among experts and decision makers are encouraged in order to find ways to achieve the thresholds set within the constitution.
The meeting was chaired by Hulda Ouma (National Gender and Equality Commission of Kenya) and addressed the following questions:
- How do we give full effect and a lasting solution to the issues of gender parity and equity in elective positions specifically in the National Assembly and the Senate?
- Does the design of the electoral system guarantee women's representation through distinct constituencies and mechanisms within the electoral system?
- Will women from minorities be appropriately represented within the new electoral system?