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 Antigender-based Violence Act criminalizes spousal rape, and 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 of men or women, including spousal rape, and domestic violence, the government did not always effectively enforce the law.
For example, the police took no action regarding a gender-based violence case in which a traditional leader allegedly assaulted his wife over time, despite multiple reports from the victim. In another example, a man raped an unconscious woman, filming the act, and posting it on social media. While the man was later arrested, the case remained in the court system at year’s end due to lack of evidence because the legal system does not yet recognize digital media as a form of evidence in court. To address the problem of gender-based violence, NGOCC and its member organizations engaged traditional marriage counselors on gender-based violence and women’s rights. The Young Women’s Christian Association 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. Other efforts to combat and reduce gender-based violence included the establishment of shelters and a helpline for victims of gender-based violence, curriculum development for training of police officers in the handling of cases of gender-based violence, 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 was developed within the government Central Statistics Office to strengthen monitoring and reporting of cases of gender-based violence. The system will allow for effective and comprehensive reporting of gender-based violence and improved support, including legal services, social, economic, and overall national planning.
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.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Human rights-focused NGOs observed that the country’s dual system of customary and statutory law made it difficult to end injustices against women. 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 to decline. The penal code prohibits “sexual cleansing” of girls under age 16. During the year, 91 senior chiefs denounced negative traditional gender norms and practices. For example, Paramount Chief Gawa Undi of the Chewa people covering the eastern part of the country, Malawi, and parts of Mozambique banned all negative traditional practices and urged all his subjects to take action or report to the police anyone practicing sexual cleansing, early child marriage, or wife inheritance.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was common, but the government took few 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 families of perpetrators often pressured victims to withdraw complaints, especially if they were members of the same family, which hampered prosecution of offenders. In one example, a victim of sexual harassment at a local department store ended in the employee losing her job after publicizing her abuse at the workplace involving one of the managers.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization. For additional information, see Appendix C.
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. According to the Zambia Demographic and Health Survey 2013-14, 31 percent of women ages 20-24 were married before 18. According to UNICEF child marriage is largely between peers rather than forced.
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. In 2016 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.” 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 under 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 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 newly established Mantapala resettlement in Luapula Province, 6,250 were children. According to UNHCR, among the refugee population in Zambia, approximately 1,500 unaccompanied and separated children were registered, 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.html.
There were fewer than 500 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 against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities in employment, education, transportation, access to health care, and the provision of other government services. According to the Zambia Agency for Persons with Disabilities (ZAPD), the government effectively enforced the law. ZAPD reported that the police and other government institutions helped in preventing violence against persons with disabilities. For example, the police investigated and apprehended perpetrators of violence against a woman with albinism in Muchinga Province who had her right hand amputated and left hand wounded, reportedly by ritual killers. Police also apprehended a man in Chipata district who shot his disabled son in 2017. In both instances court proceedings were still pending at year’s end.
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 mental disabilities could not hold public office. 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, schools, and hospitals rarely had facilities to accommodate such persons. Five schools were designated for children with disabilities. Some children with physical disabilities attended mainstream schools, but long distances to school restricted them 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.
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. Regionalism and tribalism that marred the 2016 general election contributed to divisions among tribal groups.
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 while others demanded independence. In an effort to address tensions over the agreement, in April the government and Lozi traditional leadership concluded consultations to resume talks on the restoration of the 1964 agreement.
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. During the Universal Periodic Review held in November 2017 in Geneva, the government rejected calls to recognize and protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights. The government enforced laws against same-sex sexual activity and did not address societal discrimination against LGBTI persons. For example, on August 3, the Kapiri Mposhi Magistrates Court convicted two men for having “unnatural” sexual intercourse and subjected them to a forced anal exam during the investigation (see section 1. c.). The two men were arrested and charged for same-sex sexual conduct in August and were, by the year’s end, awaiting sentencing by the High Court.
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. Some 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 was nonexistent. In August police reportedly harassed an LGBTI community member at a local church because the person identified as a transgender woman. Police officers forcibly stripped and questioned her to ascertain her sex.
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 2016 the country’s first openly HIV-positive person was elected to parliament.