Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The law provides criminal penalties for officials convicted of corruption, and the government attempted to enforce the law but did not do so consistently. Officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Although the government collaborated with the international community and civil society organizations to improve capacity to investigate and prevent corruption, anticorruption NGOs observed the enforcement rate among senior government officials and in the civil service was low.
According to Transparency International (TI) Zambia, the average conviction rate for those prosecuted for corruption was 10 to 20 percent. The government did not effectively or consistently apply laws against corrupt officials; it selectively applied anticorruption law to target opposition leaders or officials who ran afoul of it. TI Zambia further reported that officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.
Corruption: Media reported numerous allegations of government corruption similar to the following example. On June 24, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) arrested Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya and charged him with four counts of possession of criminally obtained property. On August 25, ACC prosecutor Clifford Moonga informed the Lusaka Magistrate Court that he had been instructed to “offer no further evidence” against Chilufya and the case was dismissed. TI Zambia stated the ACC’s failure to prosecute Chilufya successfully could erode public confidence in the integrity of the government.
Financial Disclosure: The law only provides for income and asset disclosure by a small fraction of political officeholders and public servants. Although the Anti-Corruption Act requires certain ACC officers to disclose their assets and liabilities prior to taking office, it does not apply to other public officials. Under the Electoral Process Act, only presidential and vice presidential candidates are required to declare their assets and liabilities. Conviction of making a false declaration is punishable by seven years’ imprisonment without the option of a fine. Some government institutions, such as the Zambia Revenue Authority, maintained integrity committees to enhance asset disclosure mechanisms within the workplace. In several other institutions, asset disclosure requirements were vague or inadequately enforced.
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 law does not include 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 violence 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 government and Young Women’s Christian Association 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 Zambia Police Service, staffed with trained personnel, supplemented these efforts. Other efforts to combat and reduce gender-based violence included curriculum development for training police officers, roadshows to sensitize the public about 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, has increased the 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): The law prohibits FGM/C for women and girls. The NGO Women and Law in Southern Africa and other human rights-focused NGOs reported that labia elongation–the practice of pulling of the labia, a type of FGM/C intended to elongate the labia–was widely practiced. There were, however, indications the incidence rate was declining, especially in urban areas.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was common, and 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 Gender Organizations’ 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.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to manage their reproductive health 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, intrapartum, and postpartum care.
Barriers to access to reproductive health services included myths and misconceptions regarding contraceptive use and inadequate reproductive health infrastructure, including insufficient skilled health-care providers, communication, and referral systems. These barriers were greatest in remote, hard-to-reach rural areas, contributing to significant inequalities in access to and availability of maternal and reproductive services.
Through the Zambia-UN Joint Program on Gender Based Violence, the government provided access for survivors of sexual violence to sexual and reproductive health services.
The maternal mortality ratio was 278 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2018. The three major causes of maternal mortality were postpartum hemorrhage, hypertensive disorders, and septicemia. According to the Zambia 2018 Demographic and Health Survey, 80 percent of child births were assisted by a skilled provider, the pregnancy rate for girls and women between ages 15 and 19 was 29 percent, and the median age of having the first child was 19, indicating limited contraceptive use among teenagers.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
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 the collateral that 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.
Education: Although the Education Act 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.” These omissions 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 only 37 percent of children who completed secondary school were girls.
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.
Child, 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. UNICEF reported that in 2018 29 percent of women between ages 20 and 24 had been married before age 18, and 5 percent before age 15. UNICEF reported child marriage was largely between peers, rather than forced. According to the Young Women’s Christian Association and UNICEF, early and forced marriages were prevalent, particularly in rural areas. The government adopted a multisectoral approach to stop child marriage, including 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 on Ending Child Marriage (2016-2021) 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 local leaders nullified forced and early marriages and placed the girls removed from such marriages in school.
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 children age 12 and older engaged in commercial sex, but authorities did not enforce the law, and commercial sexual exploitation of children 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: According to UNICEF and UNHCR, there were 6,250 child refugees registered in 2019 at Mantapala refugee resettlement in Luapula Province, of whom 1,001 were unaccompanied and separated children. 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 .
There were fewer than 500 persons in the Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
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. The enactment of the Mental Health Act in April 2019 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. ZAPD reported police and other government institutions did help prevent violence against persons with disabilities by investigating allegations of violence.
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, buildings access, 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 persons with disabilities. 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, three types of education systems were 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 persons with disabilities seeking to enter the civil service and had a university student loan program for students with disabilities.
Members of National/Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups
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.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, 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 continued to reject calls to recognize and protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights. In September 2019 while attending the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly, the president reiterated that LGBTI rights “cannot be replicated in Zambia because they are a taboo” in local culture. The government enforced laws against same-sex sexual activity and did not address societal discrimination against LGBTI persons. In November 2019 the Lusaka High Court upheld the convictions of two Kapiri Mposhi gay men for consensual same-sex sexual conduct and sentenced them to the mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment. In May the president pardoned the two men along with other inmates released as a COVID-19-induced health measure reducing prison overcrowding.
Societal violence against persons based on gender identity 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 protections and human rights for LGBTI persons and 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.
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 continued to make progress in changing entrenched attitudes of discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS.