The East African Legislative Assembly, meeting in Kigali, on March 8, International Women’s Day, passed the EAC Gender Equality, Equity and Development Bill.
The Bill, proposed by MP Nancy Abisai, makes provision for gender equality, equity, protection and development in the Community. The Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC in Article 121 recognises the significant contribution that women make towards progress of socio-economic transformation and sustainable growth, and the importance of full participation of women and men in the economic and social development of the Partner States.
The Bill contends that whereas the EAC Partner States recognize 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 passage of the Bill was preceded by a presentation of the Report of the Committee on General Purpose on the public hearings held in the Partner States. The chairperson of the Committee, Odette Nyiramilimo, explained that during the public hearings, stakeholders in Kenya welcomed the EAC Gender Equality and Development Bill, saying it would give effect to the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. In the spirit of the EAC, according to them, the Bill should propose programmes and policies that would curb cross border practices of FGM in a bid to eradicate the practice and adopt a mutual assistance strategy.
In Uganda, stakeholders called for broadening of the terms with regards to affirmative action including deliberate actions and initiatives in favour of marginalized groups, the child as well as issues around discrimination against women. They also suggested that governments should have legislations that make it mandatory for all schools to have facilities that are accessible to disabled persons and sanitary facilities that are separate for girls and boys.
Meanwhile, in Burundi, as far as the health sector is concerned, the bill is considered helpful since it serves to strengthen the policies already put in place by the government even though a law governing gender equality is not yet enacted. In Tanzania, on the other hand, stakeholders recommended the proposed bill awaits the EAC policy document on Gender Equality and Development in order to align 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. Towards this end, the bill expressly prohibits all forms of exploitation, cruel, inhuman or degrading traditional practices. The stakeholders were also of the view that female genital mutilation should be prohibited to protect women’s rights to physical integrity.
After its approval by EALA, the bill now has to be given the nod by the EAC Heads of State.