Senate deals blow to gender rule Bill

The Senate has, for the third time, struck down a Bill meant to guarantee a constitutional provision for gender equality in all positions in government.

The proposed law failed to get the required numbers to have it move to the next stage of approval. It was supported by 37 of the 67 Senators. The Bill needed support from at least 45 senators to sail through.

Though Speaker Ekwee Ethuro saved the Bill when he ruled that it will be read again “within five Senate sittings”, it means Parliament has failed for the third time to enact legislation that could boost number of women in elective positions.

“The Speaker, through the Standing orders, is allowed to defer the vote on a Bill where it does not get the majority to pass but where the “Nays” are less than a third of the House,” ruled Mr Ethuro.

The Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2015 sponsored by nominated Senator Judith Sijeny, seeks to have more women nominated to Parliament through party lists and progressively.

It is to be amended after 20 years as a way of meeting the gender rule which says not more than two thirds of one gender fill up elective and appointive positions.

In August, Senators failed to pass a constitutional amendment for the nomination of more women MPs due to lack of quorum.

At the time, there were 22 men and six women in the Senate of 67 members, prompting Deputy Speaker Kembi Gitura to defer it.

The National Assembly, too, had in May failed to endorse a similar Bill sponsored by Majority Leader Aden Duale, despite coalition chiefs President Uhuru Kenyatta (Jubilee) and Raila Odinga (Cord) rallying their sides to support the proposed law.

Male MPs at the time walked out of the House, weakening its required support of at least 233 MPs.

Yesterday, Senators said they will continue lobbying for more support after making some changes.

“We want to we talk to our colleagues to ensure that this Bill, that is important to women, is passed,” said Nominated Senator Elizabeth Ongoro.

Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale (UDF) and his Busia counterpart Amos Wako (ODM) told the House that while they supported the Bill, it needed some amendments.

“This Bill is good but we might shoot it down if it is not amended. How do you say that one person will be nominated twice and deny thousands of Kenyans a chance?” asked Dr Khalwale.

The National Gender Equality Commission – the driver of the agenda- had warned that the two Houses will be declared unconstitutional if the Bill is not passed. County assemblies have adhered to the rule through nomination of over 600 members.

But despite Parliament extending its deadline twice, MPs have failed to pass it. Last August, they extended the deadline again by a year.

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