THE MAPUTO PROTOCOL TURNS 18: The Legislative and Policy Measures Safeguarding Women’s Political Leadership in Kenya

Posted by on 13th July 2021

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African Union Member States committed that by 2020, there will be universal ratification, implementation and domestication of Maputo Protocol. Kenya ratified Maputo protocol in 2010 which partly sought to address issues of gender equality in political leadership.

The National Legislative measures that safeguard women in politics and protects them against all forms of discrimination are; The Constitution of Kenya 2010 whose Article 27(8) provides that the State shall take legislative and other measures to implement the principle that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective and appointive bodies shall be of the same gender.” Article 81(b) adds that “The electoral system shall comply with,” among others, the principle that “not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender’’.

The National Gender and Equality Commission Act 2011 aims at ensuring that there is gender equality, impartiality and gender equity. The Political Parties Act 2011 was also enacted for the reasons that political parties hold the key to women’s entry and effective participation and leadership in politics in the country.  The Political Parties Primaries Bill 2020 also sets out the requirement in Chapter 4 (3) that in making the appointments to a party organ, a political party shall ensure that at least one-third of the members of each party organ are of the opposite gender. Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Act Part 4 (25b) observes the principle that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender. While the Election Act 2011 provides measures for affirmative action in line with the provision of the constitution on gender equality.

Kenya has performed well in domestication and implementation of the provisions stipulated in the Maputo Protocol with the goal to increase women’s leadership and political participation. On looking at the Administrative measures and budgetary steps that have been put in place by the Kenyan government to promote women’s political leadership, the answer is in the affirmative actions by the government. Additionally, one of the conditions for political parties to secure public funding is to have not more than 2/3rd of the elected officials being of one gender. According to the Registrar of Political Parties, there is a provision for other financial advantages to encourage gender equality in political parties. The funds are earmarked to promote gender activities within respective counties.

Although the government has taken systematic steps towards addressing gender discrimination and inequality through the enactment of pro-women’s rights legislation, there remain significant challenges and gaps that are still a barrier to full implementation of the Protocol.  Kenyan women have and still continue to struggle to enjoy their Constitutional rights and entitlements following laxity in implementation of necessary mechanisms and measures by the duty bearers. The Resource Gap for Campaigns and Support Representation Activities remains limited; the Violence Meted on Women Parliamentary Aspirants During Campaigns and in their line of Duty as Parliamentarians remains a challenge; manipulation of Political Parties’ Membership Lists remains an issue as the nomination list of women is a highly guarded affair and subject to patronage; and there is lack of Political Good Will in the implementation, or lack thereof, of the not more than 2/3 gender representation rule.

The Government and citizenry should prioritize and enact the necessary legislation to enforce the 2/3rd gender representation rule as a matter of urgency. Political Parties should take full measures to attract, recruit, support and promote women in party leadership and elected positions and to support women among their ranks. Furthermore, political parties should establish mechanisms to effectively enforce among their members the political party and electoral codes of conduct, focus on expanding and supporting the number of women and young people participating as candidate agents. State agencies like the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties (ORPP) need to ensure that all parties receiving state funding comply with the legal requirement that at least 30 percent of funds support programs for women. 

All Key-Stakeholders-including political parties, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, civil society, media and the security sector need to come together and urgently work towards removing obstacles that hinder the full participation of women in all aspects of the electoral process. Finally, the state at large, inclusive of both private and public organs, should endeavour to live up to the provisions of the Constitution by not waiting for a 2/3rd gender representation laws, but acting as directed by the Constitution.