Low turnout scuppered a vote guaranteeing Kenyan women more seats in parliament on Wednesday, with campaigners saying it was “a dark day” for citizens in the east African nation.
The bill would have reserved one in three seats for women but not enough politicians showed up to vote on the controversial issue, with campaigners citing chauvinism.
“Once again, a majority of our members of parliament have failed to show up and stand up for women,” said Josephine Wambua-Mongare, who chairs the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya, which has petitioned the court over the issue.
It is unfortunate to see our current leaders defer a priority concern for girls and women in Kenya. It is a dark day for all Kenyans.”
The speaker of Kenya’s National Assembly, Justin Muturi, agreed to a motion by the government to defer the vote since there were only 212 out of a total 349 members present.
For the bill to pass, 233 members must be present and all must vote in favour.
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Women hold 23 percent of seats in Kenya’s lower and upper houses of parliament combined, says the Inter-Parliamentary Union – on a par with the global average, but lower than east African neighbours Rwanda, Ethiopia and Burundi.
The bill – backed by President Uhuru Kenyatta and leader of the opposition Raila Odinga – provides for special seats to be created if parliamentary elections fail to achieve the required numbers, with candidates nominated to fill them.
Women MPs said they were disappointed with the low show despite intense lobbying. Greater public awareness about the bill was needed as it would dispel widespread misconceptions.
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