Somebody has come up with a barmy idea on how gender parity can be achieved in the next Parliament.
If the formula is implemented, some of us will be denied the right to vote for a candidate of our choice at the next elections.
The reasoning is that if the Constitution dictates that no more than two-thirds of representatives are from one gender, then the only way to ensure the Parliament is constitutional is to bar men from contesting in a third of the seats.
Let me state from the onset that I support women’s empowerment and I am all for affirmative action in support of minorities and other disadvantaged groups.
I will readily and happily vote for a woman president, MP, senator, governor, county assembly member, or councillor.
However, my constitutional rights are violated when I am forced to vote for a woman irrespective of her appeal.
I am sure also violated are the constitutional rights of men who might want to stand in any voting area that is arbitrarily, and unconstitutionally, declared exclusive female territory.
What is surprising is that the madcap proposal has won the support of Interim Independent Electoral Commission chairman Issack Hassan, who argues that a National Assembly that fails to elect at least 116 women, or one-third of the component, would be illegal.
Now, the framers of the Constitution crafted the one-third rule with good intentions. Women have been grossly under-represented in Kenyan leadership since independence, so they obviously need some help.
It is one thing, however, to mandate gender balance for appointed positions, and another to legislate the same for elective positions.
The framers of the Constitution, in their wisdom, did not create such special “women’s-only” seats constituencies.
Therefore, it would be both irregular and unconstitutional for such a device to be imposed through some ad-hoc mechanism that blithely ignores the right of voters and candidates.
Unless we are prepared to amend the Constitution to create such seats, then we had better leave that hare-brained scheme alone and think of something else.
Perhaps the dilemma here indicates the folly of making constitutional provisions without thinking of how they will actually be implemented.
I supported with heart, body and soul the passage of the new Constitution, but I was also concerned that the drafters had pandered to too many special-interest groups.
That is why we ended up with a voluminous document that deviated from the ideal of setting out broad guidelines and instead went into the minutiae of matters best left to legislation.
Legislation, however, cannot amend the Constitution. Nor can legislation that is unconstitutional be of any effect.
Therefore, any defects will have to be ironed out at the appropriate time through the mechanisms established by the Constitution; not through agitation by lobby groups.
As women activists continue to rightfully fight for fairer gender representation, they must be careful not to engage in campaigns that alienate them from the wider society or serve only to play into the hands of reactionary anti-reformists who would want to sabotage the new Constitution.
Lost in this debate might be that while women certainly have suffered discrimination and marginalisation, they are not a minority.
When Kenyans fought for independence, they did not demand special seats for Africans. All they asked for was universal suffrage and the right to vote for leaders of their choice.
Since women are not a minority and they enjoy equal rights to vote and to stand for office, then it defeats reason why gender parity cannot be achieved through the ballot box.
But then the problem with our women is that they are their own worst enemies.
They make up half the population and probably well over half the actual voters, but they will continue to vote against women candidates, and then cry foul about male domination.
They are satisfied with special women’s seats, appointment to the party women’s league and lobbying for direct nomination; forgetting that they have the numbers to tilt the balance.
That is why, for a long time to come, they will be dancing to win the favours of the male establishment.