Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape–regardless of the victim’s gender–is a crime with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The law does not specifically criminalize spousal rape, but it can be prosecuted under related statutes that cover assault and domestic violence. The law criminalizes domestic violence and seeks to protect the rights of women and children. Violators could face maximum prison terms of five years, a maximum fine of VUV 100,000 ($860), or both. The law also calls for police to issue protection orders for as long as there is a threat of violence.
Police were frequently reluctant to intervene in what they considered domestic matters. There is, however, a “no drop,” evidence-based policy under which police are not supposed to drop reported domestic-violence cases. The Police Academy and the New Zealand government provided training for police in responding to domestic-violence and sexual-assault cases.
Violence against women, particularly domestic violence, was common. According to the most recent survey data available, 60 percent of women in a relationship experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner. According to a 2017 report from Correctional Services, more than 60 percent of prison inmates were charged with sex-related offenses. Most cases, including rape, were not reported to authorities because women, particularly in rural areas, were ignorant of their rights or feared further abuse.
There were no countrywide government information programs designed to address domestic violence. Although media attention to domestic violence and abuse was generally limited, the killings of two women by their partners in Port Vila in 2017 received significant attention.
The Department of Women’s Affairs played a role in implementing family protection. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) played an important role in educating the public about domestic violence and helping women access the formal justice system, but they lacked sufficient funding to implement their programs fully.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Customary bride-price payments continued and contributed to the perception of male ownership of women.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, and it was a problem. Sexual harassment was widespread in the workplace.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: The constitution provides women the same personal and religious rights as men. Laws regarding marriage, criminal procedures, and employment further enshrine women’s rights as equal to those of men. The law, however, does not allow citizen mothers alone to transmit citizenship to their children.
Although the law does not prohibit women from owning or inheriting property or land, tradition generally bars women from land ownership or property inheritance.
Women were slowly emerging from a traditional culture characterized by male dominance, but women continued to experience discrimination in access to employment, credit, and pay equity for substantially similar work. The Department of Women’s Affairs worked with regional and international organizations to increase women’s access to the formal justice system and educate women about their rights under the law, holding multiple open workshops throughout the year that coincided with public holidays to encourage participation at the local community level.
Birth Registration: A citizen father, but not a citizen mother, may transmit citizenship to a child regardless of where the child is born. A child born of a citizen mother may apply for citizenship at age 18. The lack of citizenship at birth can cause a child to be denied passports and other rights and services. Parents usually registered the birth of a child immediately, unless the birth took place in a very remote village or island. Failure to register does not result in denial of public services.
Education: The government stressed the importance of children’s rights and welfare, but significant problems existed with access to education. Although the government stated its commitment to free and universal education, school fees and difficult geography were barriers to school attendance for some children.
School attendance is not compulsory. In general boys received more education than girls. Although attendance rates were similar in early primary grades, proportionately fewer girls advanced to higher grades. An estimated 50 percent of the population was functionally illiterate.
Child Abuse: The country does not have a legal definition of child abuse, but the law addresses sexual abuse of children and states that parents must protect children from violence within the family setting. The national child protection policy recognizes the government’s responsibility to protect all children from violence, abuse, exploitation, and neglect and includes the need to introduce a child protection bill.
NGOs and law-enforcement agencies reported increased complaints of child abuse, incest, and rape of children in recent years. A 2017 UNICEF report stated that eight of 10 children from ages two to four experienced violent discipline at home. It also stated that one in three children experienced severe physical punishment at home and that sexual abuse before the age of 15 affected three of 10 children. The government did little to combat the problem.
In April 2018, for example, a six-year-old girl was abducted from her home, raped, and killed. In April the perpetrator was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment by the Supreme Court in the first case prosecuted under the Penal Code amendment of 2017.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 21 years, although boys as young as 18 and girls as young as 16 may marry with parental permission. In rural areas and outer islands, some children married at younger ages. In 2018 UNICEF reported that approximately 21 percent of children married before age 18.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law addresses statutory rape, providing a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment if the child is older than 13 but younger than 15, or 14 years’ imprisonment if the child is younger than 13. The law also prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children, the sale of children, and the offering or procuring of a child for the purpose of prostitution or pornography. There were no criminal cases dealing with pornography or child sexual exploitation during the year.
The maximum penalty for publishing child pornography is five years’ imprisonment and for possession, two years’ imprisonment.
Under the law the age of consensual sex is 16 regardless of sex or sexual orientation. Some children younger than 18 engaged in prostitution.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.
The country’s Jewish community consisted of a few foreign nationals, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
In November 2018 four Bangladeshi nationals were arrested for trafficking 100 Bangladeshi men and two children to work for the Mr Price company (a South African retailer) in Vanuatu. At their September hearing, all four pleaded not guilty. The trial in the Supreme Court began on November 21, but it recessed on December 6 with a scheduled January 2020 resumption. Of the 102 victims, 77 have departed the country, and 25 remained as witnesses against their alleged traffickers.
No law specifically prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. Although the building code mandates access for persons with disabilities in existing and new facilities, they could not access most buildings.
The government did not effectively implement national policy designed to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. Access to services through the Ministry of Health’s mental-health policy was very limited. Schools were generally not accessible to children with disabilities.
The government generally relied upon the traditional extended family and NGOs to provide services and support to persons with disabilities. The high rate of unemployment in the general population, combined with social stigma attached to disabilities, meant few jobs were available to persons with disabilities.
No laws criminalize sexual orientation or consensual same-sex sexual conduct, but there were reports of discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTI) persons. LGBTI groups operated freely, but there are no antidiscrimination laws to protect them.
Traditional beliefs in sorcery fueled violence against persons marginalized in their communities, although there were no documented cases during the year. Women were often targets of opportunity.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and other sexual offenses, and courts have discretion to sentence convicted rapists to life imprisonment with hard labor.
The Anti-Gender-Based Violence Act does not have provisions for spousal rape. The penal code criminalizes domestic violence between spouses and among family members living in the same home. The law provides for prosecution of most crimes of gender-based violence, and penalties for conviction range from a fine to 25 years’ imprisonment, depending on the severity of injury and whether a weapon was used. The law provides for protection orders for victims of domestic and gender-based violence, and such orders were issued and enforced. Despite this legal framework, rape remained widespread. Although the law criminalizes rape and domestic violence, the government did not always consistently enforce the law.
To address the problem of gender-based violence, the government engaged traditional marriage counselors on gender-based violence and women’s rights in collaboration with NGOs. The Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) also continued its “good husband” campaign and, in collaboration with other women’s movements, the “I Care about Her” campaign to promote respect for women and to end spousal abuse. The government and YWCA worked to address these problems through community sensitizations, shelters, toll-free lines, and one-stop centers where victims accessed counseling and legal support services. The Victim Support Unit under the police, staffed with trained personnel, supplemented these efforts. Other efforts to combat and reduce gender-based violence included curriculum development for training of police officers, roadshows to sensitize the public to gender-based violence, and instruction on how to file complaints and present evidence against perpetrators.
A gender-based violence information management system in the government Central Statistics Office strengthened monitoring and reporting of cases of gender-based violence. The system, which allows for effective and comprehensive reporting of gender-based violence and improved support, including legal services, social, economic, and overall national planning, led to an increased number of reported cases.
Human rights-focused NGOs observed that the country’s dual system of customary and statutory law made it difficult to combat and deter injustices against women.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Although the law prohibits FGM/C for women and girls, FGM/C was common. Human rights-focused NGOs reported that the practice of pulling of the labia, a type of FGM/C intended to elongate the labia, is widely practiced. There were, however, indications the incidence rate was declining, especially in urban areas.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was common, but the government took few steps to prosecute harassment during the year. Although the penal code contains provisions under which some forms of sexual harassment of women may be prosecuted, the provisions are inadequate to protect women effectively from sexual harassment. The Non-Governmental Coordinating Council received many reports of sexual harassment in the workplace but noted stringent evidence requirements often prevented victims from filing charges against their harassers. Family pressure on victims to withdraw complaints–especially when perpetrators were also family members–also hampered prosecution.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: In contrast to customary law, the constitution and other laws provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including under family, labor, property, and nationality laws. The government did not adequately enforce the law, and women experienced discrimination. For example, customary land tenure and patriarchal systems discriminate against women seeking to own land. This situation restricts women’s access to credit as they lack collateral, which land ownership provides.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents or, with the exception of refugees, by birth within the country’s territory. Birth registration was neither denied nor provided on a discriminatory basis. Failure to register births did not result in the denial of public services, such as education or health care, to children, and there were no differences in birth registration policies and procedures between girls and boys. Both state and nonstate institutions accepted alternative documents to access other basic services. For additional information, see Appendix C.
Education: Although the Education Act and education policy provides for free and compulsory education for children of “school-going age,” the act neither sets a specific age nor defines what is meant by “school-going age.” This may leave children particularly vulnerable to child labor (see section 7.b.). The numbers of girls and boys in primary school were approximately equal, but fewer girls attended secondary school. According to UNICEF, girls tended to leave school at younger ages than did boys because of early marriage or unplanned pregnancies.
Child Abuse: The punishment for conviction of causing bodily harm to a child is five to 10 years’ imprisonment, and the law was generally enforced. Beyond efforts to eliminate child marriage, there were no specific initiatives to combat child abuse.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 16 for boys and girls with parental consent and 21 without consent. There is no minimum age under customary law. In 2017 according to UNICEF, 31 percent of girls were married by age 18 and 6 percent by age 15. UNICEF reported child marriage was largely between peers, rather than forced. According to the YWCA and other NGOs, however, early and forced marriages were prevalent, particularly in rural areas. The government adopted a multisectoral approach to stop child marriage, which included keeping children in school, creating re-entry policies for girls who become pregnant, and strengthening the role of health centers for sexual reproductive health. These efforts were articulated by the national strategy to end child marriages launched in 2017. Other efforts by the government and other nonstate actors included community sensitization and withdrawing children from child marriages, supported by several traditional leaders.
The government, parliamentarians, civil society organizations, and donors worked together to fight early and forced marriages. The Ministries of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs; Gender; and Youth, Sport, and Child Development, in collaboration with traditional leaders, NGOs, diplomatic missions, and other concerned persons, increasingly spoke out against early and forced marriages. Some leaders nullified forced and early marriages and placed the girls removed from such marriages in school. For additional information, see Appendix C.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sexual relations is 16. The law provides penalties of up to life imprisonment for conviction of statutory rape or defilement, which the law defines as the unlawful carnal knowledge of a child younger than age 16. The minimum penalty for a conviction of defilement is 15 years’ imprisonment.
The law criminalizes child prostitution and child pornography and provides for penalties of up to life imprisonment for convicted perpetrators. The law provides for prosecution and referral to counseling or community service of child prostitutes age 12 years and older, but authorities did not enforce the law, and child prostitution was common. According to UNICEF, transactional sexual exploitation of young girls–that is, sex in exchange for food, clothes, or money among extremely vulnerable girls–was prevalent.
Displaced Children: UNICEF reported that of the 10,592 refugees registered at the Mantapala resettlement in Luapula Province, 6,250 were younger than age 18. According to UNHCR and UNICEF, as of April there were 1,001 unaccompanied and separated children among registered Congolese refugees, and the government provided them with appropriate services.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.
There were fewer than 500 persons in the Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities in employment, education, transportation, access to health care, and the provision of other government services. The enactment of the Mental Health Act in April updated the legal framework by repealing the antiquated Mental Disorders Act, establishing the Mental Health Council, and giving effect to certain provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and other regional and international instruments.
Despite this progressive step, the Zambia Agency for Persons with Disabilities (ZAPD) reported the government did not consistently enforce its law due to insufficient funding for disability programs. ZAPD reported the police and other government institutions did help prevent violence against persons with disabilities by investigating allegations of violence. For example, in late 2018 authorities arrested, convicted, and imprisoned a man reportedly for raping a disabled girl in Kawambwa.
The Ministry of Community Development and Social Services oversees the government’s implementation of policies that address general and specific needs of persons with disabilities in education, health care, accessibility to physical infrastructure, and electoral participation.
A lack of consolidated data was a major impediment to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in government programming and policy. Persons with disabilities had limited access to education and correspondingly low literacy levels. While the government did not restrict persons with physical or mental disabilities from voting or otherwise participating in most civic affairs, progress in providing for their participation remained slow. Persons with disabilities also faced significant societal discrimination in employment and education.
By law the government must provide reasonable accommodation for all persons with disabilities seeking education and provide that “any physical facility at any public educational institution is accessible.” Public buildings, including schools, prisons, and hospitals, rarely had facilities to accommodate disabled persons. Five schools were designated for children with disabilities. Some children with physical disabilities attended mainstream schools, but long distances to school restricted others from accessing education. According to ZAPD, there were three types of education systems accessible to children with disabilities: segregated education (special schools), integrated education (special units), and inclusive education. The majority of children with disabilities attended special schools, while the rest attended special units. There were 150 schools practicing inclusive education in selected provinces during the year. The government also developed and promoted employment recruitment strategies for disabled persons seeking to enter the civil service and provided university study grants to disabled students.
There are seven major ethnic and language groups–Bemba, Kaonde, Lozi, Lunda, Luvale, Ngoni, and Tonga–and 66 smaller ethnic groups, many of which are related to the larger tribes. The government generally permitted autonomy for ethnic minorities and encouraged the practice of local customary law. Some political parties maintained political and historical connections to tribal groups and promoted their interests. Trends towards regionalism and tribalism that marred the 2016 general election contributed to divisions among tribal groups.
The government grants special recognition to traditional leaders nationwide. It does not recognize the 1964 Barotseland Agreement that granted the Lozi political autonomy and was signed by the United Kingdom, Northern Rhodesia, and the Barotse Royal Establishment immediately prior to the country’s independence. Some Lozi groups continued to demand official recognition of the Barotseland Agreement, while others pushed for independence from the rest of the country.
The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity, and penalties for conviction of engaging in “acts against the order of nature” are 15 years’ to life imprisonment. Conviction of the lesser charge of gross indecency carries penalties of up to 14 years’ imprisonment. During the Universal Periodic Review held in 2017 in Geneva, the government rejected calls to recognize and protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights. On September 26, while attending the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York, President Lungu reiterated that LGBTI rights “cannot be replicated in Zambia because they are a taboo” to local culture. The government enforced laws against same-sex sexual activity and did not address societal discrimination against LGBTI persons. By year’s end, four individuals were serving time in prison for reasons related to their sexual orientation, up from three at the end of 2018. This included two individuals convicted of same-sex sexual conduct by the Kapiri Mposhi Magistrates Court in August 2018. On November 27, the Lusaka High Court upheld their conviction and imposed the 15-year minimum sentence.
Societal violence against persons based on gender, sex, and sexual orientation occurred. LGBTI persons in particular were at risk of societal violence due to prevailing prejudices, misperceptions of the law, lack of legal protections, and inability to access health-care services. Most politicians, media figures, and religious leaders expressed opposition to basic protection and rights for LGBTI persons in arguing against same-sex marriage.
According to LGBTI advocacy groups, societal violence against LGBTI persons occurred, as did discrimination in employment, housing, and access to education and health care. LGBTI groups reported frequent harassment of LGBTI persons and their families, including threats via text message and email, vandalism, stalking, and outright violence. Freedom of expression or peaceful assembly on LGBTI issues remained nonexistent. For example, on February 4, the national broadcasting regulator IBA ordered Multi-Choice Zambia to suspend transmission of a reality show entitled Lusaka Hustle. Earlier, Minister of National Guidance and Religious Affairs Godfridah Sumaili advised Multi-Choice Zambia to discontinue the show on the premise that “it promotes homosexuality,” as one of the show’s primary hosts in the minister’s view displayed characteristics typically associated with the LGBTI community. After a one-week hiatus, the IBA board determined that subsequent episodes did not violate any law and reinstated the show.
The government actively discouraged discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. Most employers adopted nondiscriminatory HIV/AIDS workplace policies. Training of the public sector, including the judiciary, on the rights of persons with HIV/AIDS increased public awareness and acceptance, but societal and employment discrimination against such individuals persisted. The government made some headway in changing entrenched attitudes of discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. In 2016 the country’s first openly HIV-positive person was elected to parliament.