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 increasingly enforced the law and obtained rape convictions with higher penalties.
The 2010 Anti-Gender-based Violence Act criminalizes spousal rape, and the penal code criminalizes domestic violence between spouses and among family members living in one home. The law provides for prosecution of most GBV crimes, and penalties for conviction of assault range from a fine to 25 years in prison, depending on the severity of injury and whether a weapon was used. The law requires medical reports prepared by certified practitioners for the prosecution of cases of violence against women (and against men), but there were few certified medical practitioners in rural areas. The law provides for protection orders for victims of domestic and gender violence, and such orders were issued and enforced. Two fast-track courts in Kabwe and Lusaka were launched on January 22 and May 11, respectively, in an effort to expedite GBV cases.
Following a public outcry and intervention by civil society groups, the president withdrew the special ambassadorship of Clifford Dimba, a singer previously pardoned after serving one year of an 18-year sentence for statutory rape. The NGO Women in Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) observed that customary marriage values taught women sexual intercourse was a man’s right and discouraged reporting spousal rape. The WLSA also observed that women who revealed sexual violations to authorities often faced societal stigma, which in turn diminished future reporting. Customary laws in certain chiefdoms allowed for spousal battery. Additionally, fear of violence, abandonment, and divorce discouraged women from seeking HIV care and treatment services, especially where women were dependent on men for their livelihoods.
The ZPS Victims Support Unit was responsible for handling cases of domestic assault, wife beating, mistreatment of widows, and property expropriation (“grabbing”) by a deceased husband’s relatives. The 2015 annual survey on GBV recorded a 16.2 percent increase in reported cases from the previous year. Data on the extent of rape and domestic violence were limited.
During the year the Nongovernmental Organization Coordinating Council (NGOCC) and its member organizations engaged traditional marriage counselors on GBV and women’s rights. The Young Women’s Christian Association 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 end spousal abuse.
The WLSA reported women’s groups’ advocacy and sensitization resulted in increased reporting of GBV cases. Police, however, reported a marked rise in the number of withdrawn GBV complaints and encouraged women’s movements to sensitize women against seeking out-of-court reconciliation. Women often cited need for their incarcerated husband’s financial support in requesting withdrawal of complaints.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The NGOCC and several of its member organizations observed that the country’s dual system of customary and statutory law made it difficult to end injustices against women. For instance, polygyny is legally permitted under customary law. Women’s organizations stated the bride price had entrenched societal patriarchal dominance. 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, declined significantly; some local leaders banned the practice. The penal code prohibits “sexual cleansing” of girls under age 16.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was common, but the government took some steps to prosecute harassment during the year. The penal code contains provisions under which some forms of sexual harassment of women may be prosecuted. The NGOCC stated it received many reports of sexual harassment in the workplace but expressed concern that stringent evidence requirements in courts of law prevented victims from litigating. The NGOCC and its members also noted families of perpetrators often pressured victims to withdraw complaints, especially if they were members of the same family. This practice hampered prosecution of offenders.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Lack of access to information and services, however, remained a problem. Many women lacked access to contraception and skilled attendance during childbirth, including essential prenatal, obstetric, and postpartum care. The UN Population Division estimated 46.2 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 used a modern method of contraception in 2015, compared with 33 percent in 2007. The percentage of childbirths assisted by a skilled provider increased from 47 percent in 2007 to 64 percent in 2013-14. Teenage pregnancy, reported to be 151 per 1,000 girls and women between the ages of 15 and 19, remained a concern. The median age of the first sexual encounter for girls and women was age 17, and the median age of having the first child was 19 years old, indicating limited contraceptive use among teenagers.
According to WHO the maternal mortality ratio was 224 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015. The Ministry of Health attributed 13 percent of maternal mortality cases to unsafe abortions, mostly among adolescent girls. The major direct causes of maternal mortality were complications arising during pregnancy and birth, such as hemorrhage, septicemia (blood poisoning), obstructed labor, hypertensive conditions, and unsafe abortion. Barriers that continued to limit access to reproductive health services included limited information, inadequate staffing of rural clinics, lack of infrastructure and transport, cost, religious reasons, and misperceptions surrounding contraceptive use. These barriers were greatest among the poorest women and girls and those living in remote areas, contributing to significant inequalities in access to maternal and reproductive care.
Discrimination: In contrast to customary law, the constitution and statutory law provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including under family, labor, property, and nationality laws. Nevertheless, the government did not adequately enforce the law, and women experienced discrimination in employment (see section 7.d.), education, inheritance, and ownership of land and other property.
Women’s advocacy groups noted women lacked adequate access to credit to acquire land or property. Lack of collateral meant women in most cases remained dependent on their husbands or male members of their family to cosign for loans. Local customary law generally discriminates against women. It subordinates women with respect to property ownership, inheritance, and marriage. Land ownership was restricted for women: when a woman’s husband dies, only her son or the husband’s side of the family may inherit his property.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents or, with the exception of refugees, by birth within the country’s territory. Although registration was required promptly after birth, this was not possible in some rural areas. Failure to register births did not result in the denial of public services, such as education or health care, to children.
Education: Although government policy provides for tuition-free education through grade seven, education was not compulsory, and many children did not attend school. Contrary to government policy, many teachers and school administrators required students to purchase uniforms or pay a fee before allowing them to attend classes, preventing some children from attending school. The numbers of girls and boys in primary school were approximately equal, but fewer girls attended secondary school.
Child Abuse: Although the law prohibits sexual harassment of children, child abuse and violence against children were common problems. The punishment for conviction of causing bodily harm to a child is imprisonment for five to 10 years, and the law was generally enforced.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 16 years old for boys and girls with parental consent and 21 years old without consent. There is no minimum age under customary law. According to the ZDHS, 45 percent of married women between the ages of 25 and 49 years old were married by age 18. Prevalence was highest in rural areas. The government, parliamentarians, civil society organizations, and donors worked together to fight early and forced marriages. The Ministries of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs and Gender 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. In April the government adopted a national action plan to end child marriage. The action plan sets a five-year goal of reducing child marriage rates by 40 percent with an ultimate target to build “a Zambia free from child marriage by 2030.”
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sexual relations is 16 years old. 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 under age 16. The minimum penalty for conviction of defilement is 15 years in prison.
The law criminalizes child prostitution and child pornography and provides for penalties of up to life imprisonment for perpetrators. The law provides that child prostitutes 12 years old and above may be charged and prosecuted. Authorities did not enforce the laws, and child prostitution was common. Boys and girls were recruited into prostitution by women who formerly engaged in prostitution. These children were subsequently exploited by truck drivers in towns along the Zimbabwean and Tanzanian borders and by miners in Solwezi. Young boys were sometimes taken to Zimbabwe for prostitution, while girls were often exploited in forced prostitution in South Africa.
Displaced Children: Children were displaced and institutionalized. Orphaned children faced greater risks of child abuse, sexual abuse, and child labor. The 2013 Zambia Orphanhood and Fosterhood Report stated 13 percent of the 6.6 million children ages newborn to 17 were orphans, a 2 percent decline from the figure reported in the 2007 ZDHS. It attributed the high numbers of orphans to the loss of parents from HIV-related illnesses, malaria, and tuberculosis. According to the UN Children’s Fund, 800,000 orphans were affected by HIV and AIDS. It estimated 13,000 street children and 20,000 child-headed households were at risk of exposure to violence, abuse, and exploitation.
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 travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
There were fewer than 50 persons in the Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination in general, but no law specifically prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, and the provision of other government services.
The 2012 Persons with Disabilities Act mandates the Ministry of Gender and Child Development to oversee the government’s implementation of policies that address general and specific needs of persons with disabilities in education, health care, access to physical infrastructure, and electoral participation. The Zambia Agency for Persons with Disabilities oversaw the act’s implementation.
An umbrella organization, the Zambia Federation of Disability Organizations, whose primary role was advocacy and raising awareness, led the disability rights movement. According to the 2014 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report Barriers to HIV Services and Treatment for Persons with Disabilities in Zambia, there was a lack of data on persons with disabilities–including how many adults and children were living with disabilities–and information on their specific housing, education, and health-care needs. The lack of consolidated data was a major impediment to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in government programming and policy. According to HRW limited understanding of how many persons in the country lived with disabilities suggested they were more vulnerable to contracting HIV/AIDS and were more likely to lack access to health care. According to the report, 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, it prohibited those with mental disabilities from holding public office. Persons with disabilities also faced significant societal discrimination in employment and education.
The Ministries of General Education and of Community Development have responsibility for ensuring the welfare of persons with disabilities. 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, schools, and hospitals rarely had facilities to accommodate such persons, however. Five schools were designated for children with disabilities. Some children with physical disabilities attended mainstream schools.
There are seven major ethnic/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. The general election was marred by rhetoric that contributed to a divide between tribal groups and affected voting patterns.
The government grants special recognition to traditional leaders but 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 demanded official recognition of the Barotseland Agreement and others full secession from Zambia.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
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. The government enforced laws against same-sex sexual activity and did not address societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons.
Societal violence against persons based on gender, sex, and sexual orientation continued. 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 services. Some politicians, media figures, and religious leaders expressed opposition to basic protection and rights for LGBTI persons in arguing against same-sex marriage.
Rather than submit cases for trial, police on several occasions arrested suspected LGBTI persons on bogus charges, forcing them to spend at least one night in jail. In most cases police demanded bribes before releasing the individuals. Police increasingly charged transgender persons with “impersonation” and subjected them to verbal abuse and harassment while in detention. The charges generally could not be successfully prosecuted, and detainees were released. Neighbors reportedly attempted to blackmail LGBTI persons by threatening to report them to police. In October 2015 police in Mongu arrested a transgender woman after a taxi driver claimed he had been tricked into having sex with her without knowing she was transgender. Although the transgender woman claimed the driver raped her, she was not provided with legal representation. She was convicted of sodomy-related charges in November 2015 and sentenced to a prison term of 15 years in September. The conviction had yet to be appealed by year’s end.
Several groups quietly promoted LGBTI rights and provided services to LGBTI individuals, principally in the health sector. The groups held private social gatherings but did not participate in open demonstrations or marches in view of societal stigma against LGBTI persons. According to LGBTI advocacy groups, societal violence 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 e-mail, vandalism, stalking, and outright violence. Activists stated several LGBTI persons committed suicide.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
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 August the country’s first openly HIV-positive person was elected to parliament.