Q&A - Kenya's Attorney General aims to win 'cultural war' for women in politics

by Daniel Wesangula | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 21 April 2017 12:45 GMT

A woman carries a plastic bag on her head as she walks past a wall with various campaign posters on a street in Kenya's capital Nairobi March 3, 2013. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

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Was it a mistake to include a gender quota in the constitution? Is Kenya sexist? Attorney General Githu Muigai shares his thoughts

By Daniel Wesangula

NAIROBI, April 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Kenya will enact a law to ensure a third of lawmakers are women before elections in August, the government's chief legal adviser said, after the High Court gave parliament until the end of May to pass the bill or face dissolution.

Kenya's 2010 constitution guarantees women a third of seats in parliament, but its male-dominated assembly has repeatedly frustrated efforts to pass legislation needed to enact the quota.

Kenya's Attorney General Githu Muigai spoke to the Thomson Reuters Foundation about women's role in Kenyan politics.

Q: Was it a mistake to include a gender quota in the constitution?

A: "No way. It is one of the best pieces of law in the constitution. I think the country is ready because all countries around us have done the same."

Q: What makes you so sure the legislation will sail through this time?

A: "The truth is this is a difficult subject. I do not want to think of a doomsday possibility.

"I think the atmosphere is right and there is a commitment among all parties and I have no doubt that we will win."

Q: Kenya has East Africa's lowest representation of women in parliament at 19 percent, compared to 61 percent in Rwanda and 38 percent in Ethiopia. Do you think Kenyans should be ashamed?

A: "We all have our historical backgrounds and each country is dealing with their history in different ways. Certainly we are lagging behind but we will definitely get there."

Q: Women vying for office in Kenya frequently face violence and intimidation and often cannot get nominated by major parties. Is it simply that Kenya is not ready for women in politics?

A: "If more than half of the country's population is women then surely they should occupy equally as many places in all aspects of life, including political office."

Q: Is Kenya a sexist society?

A: "I don't think so but the socialisation of many people has not included the sensitivity of women in political office or of high office.

"It would be hypocritical to say that this issue has been embraced by everyone. We are not only fighting a legal war but a cultural war as well."

(Reporting by Daniel Wesangula; Editing by Katy Migiro and Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories.)

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