Can the gender rule and affirmative action really work?

Friday March 07 2014

There are four key ministries in the State. These are: The Ministry of Plenty (Miniplenty), which oversees economic affairs; the Ministry of Love (Miniluv), which oversees law & order; the Ministry of Peace (Minipax), which oversees war, and the Ministry of Truth (Minitrue), which oversees news, entertainment, education and the arts.

Anyone who has read “1984”, a novel by Eric Arthur Blair, whose pen-name was George Orwell, will be familiar with the government structure shown above. When 1984 was first published in 1949, George Orwell prophetically foresaw what would happen to democratic systems over time.

Miniplenty would really be dealing with shortage and famine, while Miniluv would be in charge of torture and brainwashing. Minipax would look after atrocity and invasion and, finally, Minitrue would be in charge of language manipulation, propaganda and historical revisionism.

When the economy collapses and entrepreneurship is choked, and when law is used as a coercive tool, and when aggression is dressed as struggle for peace, and when media and language are silenced and manipulated, then we will know we have gone the “1984” way.


When this happens, societies are plagued with scarcity, aggression and manipulation of language. The truth stops being the truth and words change their meanings, because “the further a society drifts from the truth the more it will hate those that speak it.”


When this happens, “political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

George Orwell warned us. Young democracies can easily go wrong. We only need to manipulate markets, law, media and the use of force. The 2010 Constitution has set the trend for deep transformations; they are unavoidable and sometimes dramatic. But we must be faithful to the spirit and the letter of the law.

The good news is that when George Orwell prophesied such a bad turning of events in 1949, he couldn’t foresee the participation of women in political life, which should be a deterrent to such political catastrophe.

History proves that the cruelest tyrants have been men. Two exceptions suddenly jump to mind: Jezebel of Israel and Wangu wa Makeri in what was Central Province.

Modem democracies have woken up to the fact that they should foster women representation. They call it “affirmative action”, a term that was first coined by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, through Executive Order 10925. Kennedy wanted to redress discrimination that had persisted in spite of civil rights laws and constitutional guarantees.

However, affirmative action poses two interesting contradictions. On one hand, any restriction of choice to one gender contradicts the principle of free choice; the vote may stop being democratic.

On the other hand, “affirmative action” without time-limits, targets and expiry dates may actually be detrimental to women representation: The minimum (the 1/3 rule) will necessarily become a maximum. George Kimotho argues that unless there are clear targets and deadlines this 1/3 rule will become a ‘maximum’ and stay there…and it will be 1/3 forever.


Kimotho seems right. This is already happening. The 1/3 gender rule pushed most women out of elective posts in last year’s election. For example, all elected positions in the Senate were captured by men, while women had to content themselves with the 16 nominated women senator positions.

When the Supreme Court read its Advisory Opinion on the Applicability of the two-third Gender Rule, the Court had to deal with a harsh reality: Women’s education has been neglected for too long. They concluded that the gender rule needed progressive implementation.

We can easily get stuck in progressive implementation for the next 20 years…and then remain at the 1/3 level forever.

No one wants to go down the 1984 way. All men and women must work together and identify any symptoms of political decay and help set the path straight.

Affirmative action can work and help the country forward if it fulfills the following conditions: It must be democratic, it must have a plan of action and targets and it must have deadlines.

By denying women their rightful space in public life we will accelerate the decline predicted by Orwell.

This decline will have serious consequences for the country and for the home. Perhaps then, the story of a family friend will become more common:

His wife woke up in the middle of the night, touched him and felt he was cold...he was dead. She said to herself, “Let me better gather some sleep now…for tomorrow will be a busy day” and she turned around and went back to sleep.

After all, men are women’s most serious problem!

Dr Franceschi is the Dean of Strathmore Law School.  [email protected]  Twitter: @lgfranceschi