Last week Kenya’s Supreme Court gave country’s parliament 60 days to pass a law guaranteeing at least one-third of the country’s elected representatives are female or face dissolution.
Parliament has a constitutional obligation to enact the requisite legislation and failure to do so within the stipulated period is in my view unacceptable and a blatant breach of their constitutional duty,” he said, according to AFP.
The case was brought by a coalition of civil society and human rights groups who hailed the decision.
“We were very excited about the fact that the court has made a very progressive decision. The court has determined that the parliament has failed Kenyans, that parliament has failed the letter and the spirit of the constitution. That parliament has lacked the will to be able to put in place measures that ensure that women are adequately represented in decision-making spaces,” said Mike Wachira, deputy director of the Center for Rights Education and Awareness, in an interview with the BBC.
“There is no way you can talk about a country developing towards achieving sustainable development goals when you’re not taking into consideration equality, you’re not taking into consideration bringing everybody to the table so that their voices can be heard when it comes to decision making, when it comes to determining how resources are distributed,” he added.
When asked about the need for such a law, Wachira pointed out how patriarchy is institutionalized within the electoral system.
“We have a history where women are continuously sidelined from political participation. So the vehicles that take people to these decision-making spaces are political parties. If political parties do not nominate women to run and vie for elected positions then it doesn’t matter how many women there are there (voting). If there are not given the opportunity to compete fairly alongside men, then there is no way they can find themselves in those decision-making spaces,” he told the BBC.
Aden Duale, majority leader in Kenya’s congress and part of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s coalition government, called the ruling an “attack” on the parliament’s independence, adding that the 60 timeline was too short given that presidential elections are currently scheduled for August.
Responding to Duale, the chair of National Gender and Equality Commission, Winfred Lichuma noted that parliament has already had seven years to pass that law and that the only thing lacking is goodwill.
“The solution is there if we think outside the box. It can be implemented before the August polls. We still have the window within these 60 days if the political goodwill is there,” Lichuma told the Star.
“There has never been political goodwill to implement the two-thirds gender rule and I will forever go on record. The political goodwill should come from the government of the day, but the pattern of those who voted or absented themselves was equal from both sides,” she added.
In 2003 Rwanda implemented a similar law requiring that one-third of lawmakers be women and now leads the world with over 60 percent of seats in its lower house of representatives occupied by women.
In contrast, only 19 percent of the U.S. Congress are women, placing it well behind Ethiopia, Burundi and South Sudan at 38, 36 and 28 percent respectively.