The Senate witnessed a heated debate on Wednesday over the issue of harassment, with Members of Parliament facing off over the best way to handle allegations made by Nominated Senator Gloria Orwoba against the Clerk.
Female MPs Wednesday, September 20, countered their male counterparts who demanded the adoption of a report that found Senator Orwoba guilty of maligning the name of the Clerk.
The report presented to the Senate plenary for adoption or rejection, soon spiraled into an exchange between two factions which either supported Orwoba or demanded her punishment.
Led by Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Secretary General Edwin Sifuna, nearly all male MPs supported the report which recommended Senator Orwoba to be censured.
"We are living in times where a man is guilty as accused even before he could be charged. Senator Orwoba failed to substantiate the allegations against the Clerk, and it's important for us to take a stand on that," Senator Sifuna noted.
Sifuna was immediately countered by ODM Nominated Senator Hezena Lemaletian who claimed that female leaders have been going through a lot in the hands of people with narrowed interests.
Lemaletian noted that Orwoba's case was not an isolated case but an ongoing challenge for a number of female MPs, especially youthful women leaders.
"More often than not, when assertive women come up to talk about their experiences, their heads are pressed down so that they are not heard.
"This house should, instead, be discussing how to prevent harassments of female Members of Parliament, not only in this House but also everywhere in the country," Lemaletian stated.
Lemaletian got support from a section of female MPs who argued that the Senate should take a tougher stance on harassment, calling for increased penalties for perpetrators and more support for victims.
Others argued that the focus should be on prevention, through education and awareness-raising campaigns. Still others argued that the government should not interfere in private matters, and that individuals should be responsible for their own actions.
However, Senator Beatrice Akinyi supported the male MPs who called for the suspension of Orwoba, noting that the nominated Senator smeared the Clerk without offering any tangible evidence.
Akinyi warned Orwoba that her conduct could also lead to serious unintended consequences. She asked young female MPs to avoid attention-seeking behaviours while serving in Parliament.
"The Clerk who was accused of harassment has a family, and making such serious allegations without offering evidence is morally wrong. Let this serve as a warning to all," Senator Akinyi noted.