Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, and courts have discretion to sentence convicted rapists to life imprisonment at hard labor. Rape was nonetheless widespread. The government did not enforce the law effectively and obtained few rape convictions. The law does not prohibit spousal rape, and penal code provisions that criminalize rape do not extend to victims of rape by a spouse. However, the law criminalizes domestic violence between spouses and among family members living in one home.
In the first half of the year, the police’s Victim Support Unit (VSU) recorded 115 cases of rape. Some women’s groups recorded more cases than the VSU. However, these figures greatly understated the actual extent of the problem. According to the VSU's records, of the 211 rape cases recorded in 2011, there were 41 convictions, two acquittals, and two withdrawn cases.
The law provides for prosecution of most gender-based crimes, and penalties for assault range from a fine to 25 years in prison, depending on the severity of injury and whether a weapon was used during the assault. Domestic violence against women was a serious problem and spousal abuse widespread. Inspector General of Police Stella Libongani announced that a total of 9,612 recorded gender-based violence cases were recorded for the year, not including spousal rape. According to the 2011 report of the UN special rapporteur on violence against women, 47 percent of women and girls above age 15 suffered had experienced physical violence. The VSU was responsible for handling cases of domestic assault, wife beating, mistreatment of widows, and property expropriation (“grabbing”) by a deceased husband’s relatives. However, police were often reluctant to pursue reports of domestic violence and preferred to encourage reconciliation. The law requires medical reports prepared by certified practitioners for prosecution of cases of violence against women, but there were few certified practitioners in rural areas. The law provides for protection orders for victims of domestic and gender violence. Protection orders were issued and enforced.
Harmful Traditional Practices: Polygamy is legally permitted under customary law. The practice of “sexual cleansing,” in which a widow is compelled to have sexual relations with her late husband’s relatives as part of a cleansing ritual, continued as a practice under customary law in many rural areas. However, some local leaders banned the practice. The penal code prohibits “sexual cleansing” of girls under the age of 16.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was common. The penal code contains provisions under which some forms of sexual harassment of women may be prosecuted. For example, legal provisions that apply to breach of peace were used to prosecute perpetrators of sexual violence against women. On September 18, police arrested UPND youth leader Paul Kalusa for threatening to organize party youths to gang-rape FDD leader Edith Nawakwi under the breach-of-peace provision of the law. The case was pending trial at year’s end.
Reproductive Rights: Although couples and individuals enjoyed the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children, they often lacked access to information. Many women lacked access to contraception and skilled attendance during childbirth, including essential prenatal, obstetric, and postpartum care. According to UN data from 2011, 27 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 used a modern method of contraception and 47 percent of births were attended by skilled health personnel. A 2012 UN report estimated the maternal mortality rate at 441 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010 and a woman’s lifetime risk of maternal death at one in 37. Nearly 31 percent of such deaths were HIV/AIDS related. Barriers that limited access to reproductive health services included limited information, cost, religious reasons, and myths surrounding contraceptive use. In rural areas, 31 percent of women were attended by a relative or a midwife during delivery.
The number of women who received HIV testing and treatment increased substantially in recent years and many more women than men sought treatment.
Discrimination: The law generally entitles women to equality with men. Nevertheless, the government did not adequately enforce the law, and women experienced discrimination in employment, education, inheritance, and ownership of land and other property. Employed women often suffered from discriminatory conditions of service, including unequal pay. Women earned approximately 25 percent less than men.
Although the Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources, and Environmental Protection set aside special land quotas for women to redress the imbalance in property ownership, women lacked adequate access to credit to purchase land or property. In most cases women remained dependent on their husbands or male members of their family to cosign for loans, although some financial institutions allowed women to sign independently for loans. Few women owned their own homes or businesses. The Ministry of Gender and Child Development (formerly the cabinet-level Gender and Child Development Division within the Presidency) is the primary agency charged with promoting the status of women. The president appointed several women to high-profile positions, including Inspector General of Police Stella Libongani, Anticorruption Commissioner Rosewin Wandi, and Acting Chief Justice Lombe Phyllis Chibesakunda.
Local customary law generally discriminates against women. Despite constitutional and legal protections, customary law subordinates women with respect to property ownership, inheritance, and marriage.
Customary law dictates that rights to inherit property rest with a deceased man’s family. Statutory law prescribes that a man’s children equally share half of an estate, the widow 20 percent, other dependents 10 percent, and the deceased’s parents 20 percent. In a polygamous marriage, a widow’s share must be divided proportionally with other wives, based on the length of time each has stayed in the marriage. Property grabbing from widows remained widespread. Courts generally considered property grabbing a criminal offense and mandated up to three years’ imprisonment as punishment. However, because of high legal costs and delays in adjudication due to an overloaded judicial system, most property grabbing cases were settled by local customary law courts, which do not have the power to impose prison sentences. With very few exceptions, most property grabbing cases revolved around family disputes. Fines imposed by customary courts were low.