Kenya’s Continual Failure to Meet their Two-Thirds Gender Quota

by | Apr 17, 2023

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About Aneisa Babkir

Aneisa Babkir is an undergraduate international studies student at American University. She is also a researcher in the Cambridge Security Initiative's International Security and Intelligence Program. Her academic interest lies in international human rights law, often focusing on structural violence and children's rights-- as well as political, economic, and security trends within North and East Africa.

Article twenty-seven of the Republic of Kenya’s 2010 Constitution states that the ‘State shall take legislative and other measures to implement the principle that not more than two-thirds of the members of electoral or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender.’ However, a decade after amending its constitution to address gender-based violence and discrimination, Kenya continues to fall short of meeting its gender quotas for elected and appointed government positions. 

Kenya’s 2010 constitution demands the elimination of all forms of gender-based discrimination and the equality of men and women in all spheres of life. In a joint report published by Kenya’s Human Rights Commission and the International Federation for Human Rights, the organizations emphasize Kenya’s dire situation: sexual and gender-based violence are significant components of election-related political violence. Gender-based violence in Kenya exists to maintain the marginalized status of women. In recent years, election-related gendered violence has escalated, including violence perpetrated by state actors like police officers. These assailants operate with impunity as police forces and the judiciary fail to investigate or prosecute these acts of violence. State action is necessary to end Kenya’s current trends of gender violence, especially as constitutional laws addressing gender-based issues continue to be disregarded.

Addressing the lack of female representation in government would bring Kenya closer to political and social equity, as this current disconnect between the government and societal groups allows for gendered issues to remain unresolved. Kenya’s latest general election saw more women attain positions of power, but the numbers remain dramatically below the constitutional gender quota. After the 2022 elections, only twenty-one percent of Kenya’s parliament was female, twelve percent below the constitutionally mandated thirty-three percent representation quota.

Women in Kenya recognize how government agencies have the potential to improve their lives but face multiple challenges when planning to run for office or participate in the country’s political sphere in any capacity. Women candidates are impeded by reduced media coverage and insufficient funding compared to their male counterparts. Moreover, women attempting to participate in any form of politics face persistent violence, including physical assaults, coercion, sexual harassment, and economic threats.  This threat of violence prevents womens’ full participation in voting for parliament members, thereby ingraining the disadvantaged status of women in Kenya.

The Kenyan government must be proactive in ensuring the implementation of the two-thirds gender rule. Without proper enforcement of this quota, the human rights of Kenyan women will continue to be violated. Currently, the country acknowledges its failure to meet the quota but has yet to make an effort to prescribe specific regulations to address this shortcoming. Legislation that provides a pathway toward meeting the gender threshold is required to counteract the government’s entrenched patterns of gender inequality.  For instance, the Kenyan government can enforce the gender quota through legislation that mandates political parties to financially support women candidates. 

Kenya’s failure to enforce its representation quota not only violates its constitutional obligation but also breaches international obligations. Kenya is a signatory to international treaties and agreements that promote gender equality, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Kenya should implement its gender quota to avoid legal action against its government and restore positive public perception at both national and international levels. 

The 2010 gender-centric constitutional amendments were implemented in response to the country’s high rates of violence against women and other minority groups. Representation in government encourages policymakers to produce legislation that reflects the needs of minority groups. The Kenyan government must fully implement its constitutional obligations through specific regulations that support women candidates These changes are necessary to combat and prevent gender-based violence and discrimination.

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