THE gender affirmative action provisions in the drafts (COE& PSCC) will, in the fullness of time, prove to be a hindrance rather than a thoroughfare for the ladies on their way to the Canaan of gender equality and equity.
For starters, the sum total of all the proposed “seats” for the ladies amount to a pitiful 20% of all the elective positions up for grabs in any general election. This leaves a whooping 80% of the seats up to interpretation as to their ‘ownership’, and which a wiser male chauvinist than Njoka-_yes, Him of the maendeleo ya wanaume fame- could “interpret” to mean that they are left exclusively for the men!
Assuming that this constitution is being prepared to serve the country for generations, is it wise to put a specific provision (about 30% of all the elective seats for the ladies)? .This smirks of calculated move to put in place a bullet- proof glass ceiling for the ladies disguised as a boon!
This is also an admission of a “weakness mentality” in the ladies; that whatever they try and no matter their individual achievements, there will always be a point above which they won’t reach or pass as a group. Placing 30 %( 1/3) as the best the ladies can get in the constitution, and effectively "casting the position in stone”, is rather un-ambitious given that the ladies constitute over 50%+ 1 of the population in Kenya.
Secondly, the senate as proposed by the PSCC is actually not as bad it sounds. It is worse. It’s much like a poodle masquerading as German shepherd. Collectively, the whole of the senate does not have the muscle to shift even a comma in a legislation (bill), let alone pass it. The senate is just a “chamaa”, with the odd man to chair the various useless committees!
The senate as proposed by the COE is better. But getting the requisite numbers of ladies to staff it will be a miracle bordering on the impossible.
Thirdly grouping women with the marginalized, the minority or the disabled is not only unfortunate, but it greatly erodes on their dignity. It’s hard to overstate the significant role of the ladies in the society, so one would be hard pressed to consider them disabled. They constitute over 50% +1 of the registered voters in Kenya considering them or marginalized or minority borders on the insane.
The real problem behind the discrepancy between the actual women voters and their eventual representation in parliament is basically a function of the “weakness mentality’ in ladies. This state of mind transcends boundaries, religions, races and even level of education, as I have explained in ‘thequeensinourlives.blogspot.com’. I am in the process of solving this through “project Queensville 2012”
The fourth point concerns the devil in the details of how the requisite numbers of the ladies will be elected to satisfy the constitution’s provisions. It is well and good to state that “no more than two thirds of the members shall be of the same gender” in a party manifesto or an MOU as the said parties are not legally bound to stick to it. But, it’s a whole different kettle of fish to state the same in a constitution. What will happen if the current state of affairs obtain (parliament: over 80% male). Will we ‘fire’ some elected MPs as it will be inconsistent with the constitution or will the whole election exercise be made null and void and a fresh one prepared? Even better,will we end up amending the new constitution?
Most of the ladies will be sourced from the counties, probably in the misguided belief that it’s easier to elect female councilors than female MPs. Given the current ratio of female to male councilors, I would be hard-pressed to concur with that kind of an assumption.
This will turn out to be the weakest link in the whole of the gender provisions in the draft, and a Potential quicksand for the whole of the new constitution. Unless of course, someone comes up with a way of placing a foundation below that beautiful castle that is gender provisions. And if you do, please let me know. It just might make my project that much easier to conclude!
Ephraim Njuguna Ngugi