The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), on International Women’s Day yesterday, passed the East African Community (EAC) Gender Equality, Equity and Development Bill, 2016 after a lengthy debate.
The Bill, moved by MP Nancy Abisai (Kenya), makes provision for gender equality, equity, protection and development in the Community and, after enactment, shall now await assent by the EAC Heads of State.
“The Heads of State should assent to the Bill and pave way for its implementation. My hope is that once enacted, partner states will take it seriously,” Lilian Awinja, executive director of the East African Business Council (EABC) told The New Times.
“The next partner state to appoint an EAC Secretariat General should appoint a woman in that office.”
The Bill contends that whereas the partner states recognise the importance of gender equality and have developed programmes and enacted legislation in this pursuit, these efforts are at different levels and contain differences particular to each partner state.
As a result, gender initiatives affect women, men and children differently across the Community.
The passing of the Bill follows successful second and third readings after presentation of the Report of the Committee on General Purpose on public consultations held in the partner states.
The committee chairperson, MP Odette Nyiramilimo (Rwanda), earlier told the Assembly that stakeholders in Kenya welcomed the Bill, saying it would give effect to the EAC Treaty and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
In Uganda, she said, stakeholders called for broadening of the terms with regards to affirmative action.
In Tanzania, stakeholders recommended the proposed Bill awaits the EAC policy document on gender equality and development in order to align or adhere to the decision of the responsible Sectoral Council.
In Rwanda, stakeholders maintained the importance of addressing gender based violence, the right to life, dignity, integrity and security of persons at all levels.
The Bill prohibits all forms of exploitation, cruel, inhuman or degrading traditional practices.