The Dilemma of the democratic implementation of the two thirds gender rule in the National Assembly: the Kenyan experience
Ombwori, Sarah Kemunto
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In many Parliaments across Africa, the number of male representatives is higher than that of their female counterparts. The same is true for Kenya thereby prompting the women movement to advocate for the rights of women. This culminated in the inclusion of various articles on women’s rights in the 2010 Constitution including Article 27(8) which provides for the two third gender rule and mandates Parliament to enact laws to actualise this provision. No law has been enacted since the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution to realise the gender rule. The Constitution also provides for the right to vote under the principle of universal suffrage in article 38(2). Citizens choose representatives that reflect their interests best. The elected representatives at the constituency level later come together to form the National Assembly. As the citizens are exercising their voting right under article 38(2) of the Constitution, the consequence is that the threshold set out in article 27(8) may not be achieved. This has been the situation since the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution. It is upon this backdrop that this study sought to analyse the measures in place as well as the attempted measures to implement article 27(8) of the Constitution in the context of National Assembly, to interrogate whether the measures in place are compatible with the principle of universal suffrage as a component of democracy and whether the measures adopted by other jurisdictions are relevant to the Kenyan situation. The study applied both qualitative and quantitative research methods to collect data from the National Assembly of Kenya. Structured questionnaires with open and closed questions were used. The study also relied on secondary sources such as books and journals. The study established that there are two main Constitutional measures for the implementation of the two third gender rule. These include the reserved seat quotas where women compete against each other in the 47 counties and the direct nominations. The study found that the reserved seat quotas were compatible with the principle of universal suffrage whereas direct nominations were not. The study used South Africa and Namibia as comparative studies, because of the similar socio-cultural and economic environments as well as the fact they had both achieved high numbers of women representatives in the National Assembly. The comparative study revealed that a vibrant women movement is at the heart of realizing gender parity. The study recommends the use of voluntary party quotas as part of the measures to realise the gender rule. Lastly, the study recommends more involvement and support by political parties in realising article 27(8).