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Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons


Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape but does not specifically address spousal rape. By law rape is punishable by two to 15 years in prison and statutory rape (sexual intercourse with a child younger than 16) by five to 20 years. Rape involving homicide is punishable by imprisonment from 10 years to life.

EULEX noted that courts often applied more lenient penalties than the legal minimum in rape cases, particularly in cases involving minors. EULEX found that courts rarely took steps to protect victims and witnesses, nor did they close hearings to the public as required by law.

According to the Kosovo Women’s Network, more than two thirds of women had been victims of domestic violence, with 21 percent of respondents to a 2015 survey agreeing, “It is OK for a husband to hit his wife.” Advocates maintained that such violence was underreported for reasons that included the social stigma associated with reporting such occurrences, a lack of trust in judicial institutions, traditional social attitudes in the male-dominated society, and a lack of viable options for victims.

The law treats domestic violence as a civil matter unless the victim suffers bodily harm. Failure to comply with a civil court’s judgment relating to a domestic violence case is a criminal and prosecutable offense, although prosecutions for this offense were rare. According to victims’ advocates, police responded according to established protocols to rape and domestic abuse allegations.

When victims pressed charges, police domestic violence units conducted investigations and transferred cases to prosecutors. The rate of prosecution was low due to societal factors as well as a backlog of cases in both civil and criminal courts. Advocates and court observers argued that prosecutors and judges favored family unification over victim protection, with protective orders sometimes allowing the perpetrator to remain in the family home while the case was pending. Advocates noted that victim confidentiality was often not respected, causing further harm. Sentences were frequently lenient, ranging from judicial reprimands to imprisonment from six months to five years.

The law permits individuals who feel threatened to petition for restraining orders, but violation of restraining orders seldom led to criminal charges. Courts rarely gave recidivists enhanced sentences as required by law.

On January 28, the Basic Court of Prizren issued an indictment for murder against Nebih Berisha, the spouse of Zejnepe Bytyqi Berisha from Suhareka/Suva Reka who was killed in October 2015. Berisha had been convicted in 2002 of domestic violence and, according to the Kosovo Women’s Network, his wife had reported her husband for domestic violence eight times.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (MLSW) included a unit dedicated to family violence. The Kosovo Academy for Public Safety incorporated courses on human rights and work with victims of domestic violence, rape, and human trafficking into all of its basic training curricula for police cadets.

The government and international donors provided support to seven NGOs to assist children and female victims of domestic violence. There were 10 shelters for victims of domestic violence.

Through the President’s National Council on Survivors, numerous officials participated in events dedicated to raising awareness of the need to provide support for individuals who suffered sexual assault related to the conflict in the late 1990s. The government took steps to acknowledge sexual survivors of wartime violence as a separate category in need of assistance but had not yet adopted a mechanism to provide them financial and psychological help, although the law and budget earmarked financial support for some survivors. In September, the MLSW issued a public call to form a verification commission to select beneficiaries, and on November 14, the ministry selected commission members. These survivors complained that EULEX prosecutors did not successfully prosecute any cases. The Ministry of Justice led a working group, including EULEX and the Special Prosecutor’s Office, to prioritize cases, but no action was taken in any case.

Sexual Harassment: According to a report by the Kosovo Women’s Network, the country has a number of laws considered applicable in relation to sexual harassment. In civil proceedings, the Law on Gender Equality, and the Law on Protection from Discrimination define sexual harassment. While the Criminal Code includes harassment, it does not contain a specific standard for sexual harassment; however, the code stipulates enhanced penalties for crimes against vulnerable victims, including victims of sexual abuse. Varying internal procedures and regulations for reporting sexual harassment hampered implementation of these laws.

According to women’s rights organizations, sexual harassment on the job was common, and victims did not report it due to fear of physical retaliation or dismissal. Public awareness of sexual harassment remained low. In March the Forum of Women Judges and Prosecutors published the first “Bench-book,” an overview of legal procedures for judges and prosecutors dealing with domestic violence, which included detailed guidance concerning factors that could be considered as aggravating ones, and recognized victims of domestic violence as vulnerable victims.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, manage their reproductive health, and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. The government generally respected reproductive rights, but poor, marginalized, and illiterate communities often had limited access to information, and public health facilities provided limited treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The law requires equal pay for equivalent work. The traditionally lower status of women within the family affected their treatment within the legal system.

The law stipulates that the partners in marriage and civil unions have equal rights to own and inherit property, but men commonly inherited family property and only 8 percent of women owned land. According to laws regulating inheritance and family matters, upon death the assets of the deceased were to be shared equally among the spouse and children, with second-degree relatives inheriting only if all first-degree relatives were deceased. In the event of a will, gender could not be used as a condition to limit inheritance. In rare instances Kosovo-Albanian widows, particularly in rural areas, risked losing custody of their children due to a custom requiring children and property to pass to the deceased father’s family while the widow returned to her birth family.

Relatively few women occupied upper-level management positions in business, police, or government. Women constituted 45 percent of the public-sector workforce in 2015. According to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, women owned approximately 20 percent of all registered businesses (see section 7.d). A recent study by the think tank Democracy for Development found that only one in 10 women in the country were employed.

Gender-biased Sex Selection: According to the Kosovo Agency for Statistics, in 2012, the date of the last census, the male to female gender ratio at birth was 110.7 to 100. According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the government did not take steps to address this imbalance, such as by regulating private clinics, or helping to increase women’s social status.


Birth Registration: Children acquire citizenship from their parents or by virtue of birth in the country. According to the Kosovo Agency for Statistics’ Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) covering 2013-14, the births of 88 percent of children younger than five were registered. Lack of registration generally did not affect a child’s ability to receive elementary education or health care, but UNICEF indicated it could adversely affect access to social assistance, particularly for repatriated children. Children who were not registered were considered stateless.

Child Abuse: Child abuse was a problem. In 2015 UNICEF found that 30 percent of children in the country, and 40 percent of ethnic Romani, Ashkali, and Egyptian children, were victims of abuse. UNICEF believed that the abuse was underreported due to low levels of public awareness of child abuse, lack of services for victims, and authorities’ limited capacity to identify, report, and refer cases of abuse. According to MICS, family members subjected 61 percent of children under the age of 14 to “psychological aggression” or physical punishment. According to a 2012 Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment report, more than 80 percent of respondents from the country said it was justified to hit a child for stealing. Fifty-nine percent of children and 80 percent of parents said that teachers were violent towards children.

Early and Forced Marriage: The law allows persons to marry at age 16. Child marriage was rare but continued in certain ethnic communities, including the Roma, Ashkalis, Egyptians, and Gorani. According to a separate MICS report that focused on these communities, approximately 12 percent of children, mostly girls, married before the age of 15. The Ministry of Local Government Administration and the Agency for Gender Equality in the prime minister’s office conducted informational campaigns to discourage early marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age of consensual sex is 16. Statutory rape is a criminal offense, which, depending on circumstances and the age of the victim, is punishable by five years to life in prison. The law prohibits possession, production, and distribution of child pornography. Persons who produce, use, or involve a child in making or producing pornography may receive sentences of one to five years. Distribution, promotion, transmission, offer, or display of child pornography is punishable by six months to five years. Possession or procurement of child pornography is punishable by a fine or imprisonment of up to three years. As of November 10, KP conducted five investigations. Prosecutors indicted two persons during the year in one case of child pornography.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. For further information see the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at


Approximately 50 Jewish persons resided in the country, according to the Jewish Community of Kosovo. On November 15, the Simon Wiesenthal Center in France issued a public letter to President Hashim Thaci that criticized the ready availability in the country of notorious anti-Semitic literature, allegedly translated into Albanian and published in Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Wiesenthal Center said it had lodged a complaint with the Ministry of Interior. On November 30, President Thaci announced a decision to ban the sale and distribution of anti-Semitic books. As of December 14, no administrative action was taken to implement this decision.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, transportation, health care, in the judicial system, or other state services. The government did not effectively enforce these provisions, and persons with disabilities suffered discrimination (see section 7.d.).

Persons with disabilities were eligible for small assistance payments from the government. The MLSW was responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and had sole responsibility for managing these payments and pensions for such persons. According to HandiKos a disability rights organization, health, social assistance, rehabilitation, and assistive devices for persons with disabilities remained insufficient, and physical access to public institutions remained difficult even after the implementation of bylaws on building and administrative support.

The MLSW has not yet addressed the issue of more than 1,000 deaf individuals who were removed from the disability pension scheme in 2013. The Law on Paraplegic and Tetraplegic Persons was adopted in May, and enters into force in 2017. As of November, the government had no budget for its implementation. The National Disability Council appointed the president of the Kosovo Disability Forum as the council’s co-chair.

According to the EU’s Kosovo 2016 Report, health and social assistance for persons with disabilities remained insufficient, and physical access to public institutions remained a challenge. The EU also expressed concern about the lack of personal assistants for children with disabilities. According to the report, the government did not effectively implement the Strategy for the Rights of People with Disabilities (2013-2023). As of November 9, it had not drafted a new action plan for 2017-2019. HandiKos reported that persons with spinal cord injuries, muscular dystrophy, Down syndrome, and multiple sclerosis lacked access to essential services, social assistance, and employment. Access to public buildings and public transport remained problematic throughout the country.

The Law on Mental Health regulates the commitment of persons to psychiatric or social care facilities and protects their rights within such institutions. The labor and health ministries had separate mandates for treating persons with mental disabilities. Although the Law on Mental Health entered into force in December 2015, as of November bylaws were not approved and the law was not implemented. The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labor each operated nine community homes for people with mental disabilities. The KRCT described mental health facilities as substandard. The country’s facilities did not have appropriate staff, such as psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, physiotherapists, and other technical experts.

The KRCT reported that several persons with mental disabilities were in detention without any legal basis but noted courts were reviewing some cases. The KRCT also observed that facilities and treatment for inmates with disabilities remained substandard (see section 1.c.).

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Ethnic minorities, including Serb, Romani, Ashkali, Egyptian, Turkish, Bosniak, Gorani, Croat, and Montenegrin communities, faced varying levels of institutional and societal discrimination in employment (see section 7.d), education, social services, language use, freedom of movement, the right to return to their homes (for displaced persons), and other basic rights.

The prime minister’s Office of Community Affairs (OCA) noted discrimination in public-sector employment in almost all local and national institutions. There were no legal remedies to address these concerns.

Romani, Ashkali, and Egyptian communities experienced pervasive social and economic discrimination. They often lacked access to basic hygiene, medical care, and education, and were heavily dependent on humanitarian aid for subsistence. The OCA found language and religious discrimination against Kosovo Serbs were among reasons inhibiting their return and survival in the country.

Incidents against Kosovo Serbs persisted, particularly in the Peje/Pec, Istog/Istok, and Kline/Klina regions. In the first eight months of the year, there were more than 111 incidents involving thefts, break-ins, verbal harassment, and damage to the property of Kosovo Serbs and the Serbian Orthodox Church. Ethnic Albanians occasionally used violence to prevent ethnic Serbs from attending religious services in certain areas (see section 2.d.). After the St. Vitus Serbian Orthodox celebration on June 28, police reported an unidentified assailant threw two Molotov cocktails at a police-escorted convoy of displaced Kosovo-Serb pilgrims visiting from Serbia. An unidentified individual also threw stones at another van of pilgrims in the Mitrovica/e region.

A memorial plaque placed at the outskirts of Rahovec/Orahovac to commemorate two Kosovo-Serb journalists who went missing in 1998, was vandalized during the year for the fifth time since 2012. The Association of Kosovo-Serb Journalists condemned the incident and blamed the government for failing to act upon information it provided to help locate missing persons. In August, President Thaci visited two memorials dedicated to Kosovo-Serb victims. One of the monuments was subsequently defaced with Albanian-nationalist graffiti.

On July 19, the NGO Center for Peace and Tolerance (CPT) criticized the KP, EULEX, and the EU Office in Kosovo for failing to prevent, properly register, and adequately investigate interethnic incidents, primarily perpetrated against Kosovo Serbs. CPT asserted that victims did not report crimes due to a lack of trust in public-sector institutions. Deputy Prime Minister Branimir Stojanovic called for an increase in the number of Kosovo Serbs on the police force, noting a reduction in some areas. As of November Kosovo Serbs represented 12.7 percent of KP’s uniformed officers (991 of 7,821). During KP’s March basic training class, Kosovo Serbs made up 12.2 percent of the 287 graduates. In response to Kosovo-Serb community safety concerns, the KP promoted a Kosovo Serb to the rank of Lieutenant and appointed him to serve as the Gorazdevac Police Substation Commander in a Kosovo-Serb majority area.

In January the secretariat of the Kosovo Judicial Council decided to close the last court liaison offices in Gracanica/e, which provided legal assistance to minority communities, including refugees and displaced persons. Following the closure, there was no free legal aid provided by the country specifically for the Kosovo-Serb community, although an EU project funded some NGOs who provided grant-based services.

Crimes were reported against the ethnic Bosniak communities in the Mitrovice/Mitrovica, Peje/Pec, and the Prizren regions, including targeted thefts, threats, assaults, property damage, forced prostitution, and the planting of an explosive device. Similar crimes were reported against the Gorani community in the Dragash/Dragas area. There were also attacks reported against members of the Romani, Ashkali, and Egyptian communities in the Peje/Pec, Ferizaj/Urosevac, and Mitrovice/Mitrovica North and South municipalities. These included targeted thefts, kidnapping, and trafficking of Ashkali women. While most of these crimes went unpunished, on October 24, authorities broke up a human trafficking ring allegedly led by a Kosovo Ashkali minor woman.

The security environment in the north of the country remained unpredictable. In July a Kosovo Bosniak sustained bodily injuries and required medical care after being assaulted by two unknown assailants in the ethnically mixed village of Suhodoll/Suvi Do. The victim had just completed prayers at a local mosque. There were also several cases of business, school, and vehicle arson, explosions, theft, and property damage. Although police indicated that most incidents were internal to the Kosovo-Serb community and not ethnically motivated, there were ethnic confrontations between young Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs near the Austerlitz Bridge.

Discussions regarding the reconstruction of houses damaged during or after the war in the ethnically mixed Kroi i Vitakut/Brdjani neighborhood continued. The Ministry for Communities and Returns, the Ministry of Local Government Administration, and neighborhood representatives met periodically but made little progress. In accordance with the August 2015 dialogue agreement, the Mitrovica/Mitrovice North and Mitrovice/Mitrovica South mayors and the EU continued to discuss the administrative lines between the municipalities, but they did not reach agreement.

The language commissioner monitored and reported on the implementation of legislation that conferred equal status to the country’s two official languages, Albanian and Serbian, as well as official languages used at the local level, including Bosnian, Romani, and Turkish. The commissioner told the media in March that the implementation of the country’s languages legislation was insufficient, resulting in the absence or incorrect translation of official documents.

Although government institutions may incur fines for not respecting the language requirements, there were no reports of fines. The commissioner lacked direct enforcement powers. Most government institutions failed to provide equal amounts of information online in languages other than Albanian. Kosovo Serbs complained that translations into Serbian of laws, other official documents, and government websites were inadequate, and sometimes conflicting, even though the Albanian and Serbian versions of laws have equal standing. The commissioner told the media that the country’s constitution had 930 translation errors between the two official languages.

Minority groups praised amendments to administrative rulings that permitted Bosniaks, Roma, and Turks to have identity documents issued in their own languages. Representatives of the Turkish community expressed dissatisfaction with implementation of the official languages law, especially in Prizren municipality, where Turkish is an official language. Officials maintained translations of street names and personal documentation were missing or poorly done. Similar shortcomings occurred in municipalities where the Bosnian and Romani languages have official status.

The employment of minorities in public institutions remained limited and generally confined to lower levels of the government. According to a report from the Kosovo Democratic Institute think tank, only 6.2 percent of the government’s civil service employees were non-Albanian minorities, although the law on civil service mandates that 10 percent of the employees at the local and national levels be minorities. The report noted that the members of Ashkali, Egyptian, Gorani, and Roma communities were “visibly underrepresented” at all civil service levels. The report also stated the government lacked an effective mechanism for monitoring levels of minority employment in public institutions.

On September 25, the Ministry of Justice published a list of candidates who passed the bar examination, including the five Kosovo-Serb candidates who intended to be integrated into the Kosovo justice system and work in Mitrovica/Mitrovice North Basic Court in accordance with the Dialogue Agreement on Justice. Bosniak community representatives complained their members were not allowed to apply for positions as prosecutors and judges in the north of the country, in violation, they claimed, of the constitution. In July, eight Bosniaks appealed to the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council and the Kosovo Judiciary Council about the decision to reject their applications for court positions in the north of the country. Four petitioners received negative responses and filed cases with the Independent Civil Service Oversight Board.

The law requires equal conditions for schoolchildren regardless of their mother tongue and provides minority students with the right to public education in their native languages through secondary school. This law was not enforced, with Kosovo’s Bosniak, Croat, Gorani, Montenegrin, Roma, and Turk leaders noting that their communities lacked textbooks and other materials.

The Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (MEST) and several international organizations reported school enrollment was lowest among the country’s non-Serb minority communities. Romani, Ashkali, and Egyptian children suffered from lower registration rates, higher dropout rates, and poor levels of performance. In most cases, such as in the Pristina and Prizren municipalities, elementary school attendance levels reportedly continued to decrease, resulting in registration of only one Bosniak child in the single elementary school in the Pristina Bosnian language program.

On June 3, MEST issued the country’s first administrative ruling formally to set aside 12 percent of admissions, dormitories, and stipends for minorities in undergraduate and graduate programs at seven public universities. On September 21, MEST amended a 2013 ruling to permit the University of Prizren to register students in BA programs in elementary education, pre-elementary education, and information technology and telecommunication in the Bosnian and Turkish languages. Prior to this change, Kosovo Bosnian and Turkish graduates in these fields were unable to use their diplomas; this decision retroactively recognized their diplomas.

All minorities complained that the government did not provide sufficient textbooks for non-Albanian-speaking students at any educational level. According to MEST, many of the schools teaching in Serbian imported textbooks from Serbia that did not conform to provisions of the domestic curriculum. On June 9, the ministry renewed its September 2015 decision banning the importation of Serbian textbooks after Serbia did not allow MEST-sponsored Albanian-language books for students in Serbia’s Presevo Valley. This ban effectively blocked the importation of all books, including non-textbooks from Serbia.

The University of Pristina, the country’s largest university, taught classes only in Albanian. Based on MEST’s June 3 administrative instruction, the University of Pristina and the country’s six other public universities offered the first-round entrance examinations to students in minority languages, as required by law.

The number of registered minority students in the first round was significantly higher than in 2015–from several dozen to more than a hundred.

Kosovo Bosniaks praised the implementation of legislation that allowed the country’s Bosniaks, Roma, and Turks to obtain identity documents in their own languages. Representatives of the Turkish community expressed dissatisfaction with overall implementation of the official languages law. Representatives of these communities claimed that translation of the official correspondence was not automatically available in the Bosnian and Turkish languages in the Prizren municipality, as provided by law. Translation of street names and personal documentation in Prizren was missing or poorly done. Similar shortcomings occurred in municipalities where the Bosnian and Romani languages had official status. The Gracanica/Gracanice municipality employed two Romani-language translators.

The government’s nonrecognition of diplomas issued by the University in Mitrovica/Mitrovice North (UNM), which operated under the government of Serbia’s system, was a key impediment to employment of Kosovo Serbs and other minorities within governmental institutions. Government officials discussed with Serbian counterparts the mutual recognition of diplomas through the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue on September 29.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

The constitution and law prohibit direct or indirect discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, health care, and education.

When the motivation for a crime was based on gender, sexual orientation, or perceived affinity of the victim with persons who are targets of such hostility, the law considers motivation to be an aggravating circumstance.

An Advisory and Coordinating Group consisting of representatives of eight ministries, the Office of Good Governance, and three NGOs cooperated to protect and promote the rights of the LGBTI community. This group met twice during the year but as of December did not complete the country’s first National Action Plan for LGBT rights. The group lacked executive authority to implement its decisions. As of December 7, no monitoring had occurred to track the implementation of the group’s decisions.

Government officials signaled support for LGBTI rights by sponsoring and attending numerous public events, such as the third annual pride walk on the International Day against Homophobia and Biphobia, which was the largest in the country’s history. President Thaci became the country’s first president to participate in the walk.

According to human rights NGOs, the LGBTI community faced overt discrimination in employment, housing, determination of statelessness, and access to education and health care. The NGOs said societal pressure persuaded most LGBTI persons to conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity. NGOs reported that discrimination against LGBTI individuals often went unreported, alleging that police were insensitive to the needs of their community.

On September 26, the court sentenced two defendants for attacking two members of the LGBTI community who had been distributing HIV prevention materials in Ferizaj/Urosevac just prior to the attack. The court sentenced one defendant to five months in prison for inciting hatred, as well as assault. This was the first conviction in the country’s history for a hate crime perpetrated against members of the LGBTI community. The NGO Center for Social Group Development, however, expressed concern that the court did not cite sexual orientation as the motivating factor.

According to NGOs, as of October LGBTI persons had reported 19 hate crimes since 2012, including five during the year.

In June a German tourist was allegedly attacked because of his sexual orientation, in a case that police and prosecutors consider a hate crime. In July a landlord allegedly attacked his tenants, gay couple. According to the couple, the landlord had threatened them in the presence of police, but police did not arrest him. The case was reported to the ombudsman; however, LGBTI groups criticized the ombudsman’s lack of response. The prosecution did not file an indictment.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

While there were no confirmed reports of official discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS during the year, anecdotal reports of such discrimination persisted.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

There were no so-called honor killings reported during the year.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits any discrimination, based on race, color, sex, religion, age, family status, political opinion, national extraction or social origin, language, gender identity, disability, health status, pregnancy, genetic inheritance, or trade union membership that has the effect of nullifying or impairing equality of opportunity, treatment in employment, or occupation capacity building. The law specifically prohibits discrimination based on gender, or gender identity, and applies to access to employment, self-employment, and choice of occupation. The prohibitions include discrimination in promotion and recruitment conditions in any branch of activity and at all levels of the professional hierarchy. Fines in cases of discrimination are between 500 and 10,000 euros ($550 and $11,000). The law does not protect against discrimination based on HIV status or other communicable diseases. According to the NGO GAP Institute, the penalties were adequate, but the number of labor inspectors was insufficient for the system to function properly, and therefore the government was unable to enforce the labor law effectively.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred across sectors with respect to sex, gender, gender identity, disability, and minority status (see section 6). During the year the BSPK received reports from labor unions and individuals also claiming discrimination based on age and family status. BSPK claimed to be the only entity where workers reported discrimination due to fear of employer retribution. The BSPK noted that employment often depended on the employee’s political status and affiliation. The BSPK also stated that due to high unemployment, employees were reluctant to report discrimination, fearing retaliation by their employer. Most often employees addressed their work-related matters internally and informally with their employers. The BSPK also reported instances of employers discriminating against female candidates in employment interviews, and illegally firing women for being pregnant or requesting maternity leave.

By law foreigners must obtain work permits prior to seeking work in the country. According to the Labor Inspectorate, there were no reports of foreign workers denied work permits, and there were no reports of violation of foreign workers’ rights during the year.


Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons


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


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

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.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

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.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The labor law prohibits discrimination in employment or occupation based on race, sex, disability, political opinion, social origin, religion, and language but did not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Various organizations also had policies that protected individuals with HIV/AIDS. Penalties for conviction of violations included a fine or 25 years’ imprisonment, or both. There was insufficient information on whether these penalties deterred violations.

Generally, the government effectively enforced the law. There were reports, however, of discrimination from minority groups. Migrant workers are not protected by the law and faced discrimination in wages and working conditions.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity. LGBTI persons were at times dismissed from employment or not hired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Women’s wages lagged behind men’s and training opportunities were less available for women. Women were much less likely to occupy managerial positions. Persons with disabilities faced significant societal discrimination in employment, education, and access.

Migrant workers, if documented, enjoy the same legal protections, wages, and working conditions as citizens.


Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons


Rape and Domestic Violence: While the law criminalizes sexual offenses, including rape and spousal rape, these crimes remained widespread problems. Spousal rape received less attention than physical violence against women. Almost a quarter of married women who had experienced domestic violence reported sexual violence, while 8 percent reported both physical and sexual violence. The 2015 Demographic Health Survey (DHS) indicated approximately 35 percent of women had experienced physical violence at some time in their lives, while almost 15 percent had experienced physical violence in the last 12 months. The survey also revealed that married women were more likely to experience physical violence, while husbands/partners were the most commonly reported perpetrator (54 percent), followed by former husbands/partners (23 percent). Lack of education increased women’s vulnerability to physical violence.

Although conviction of sexual offenses is punishable by lengthy prison sentences, women’s organizations stated that sentences were inconsistent. Rape victims were not consistently afforded protection in court.

Social stigma and societal perceptions that rape was a “fact of life” continued to inhibit reporting of rape. In the case of spousal rape, reporting was even lower due to women’s fear of losing economic support or of reprisal, lack of awareness that spousal rape is a crime, police reluctance to be involved in domestic disputes, and bureaucratic hurdles. Most rural citizens were unfamiliar with laws against domestic violence and sexual offenses. A lack of adequate and widespread services for rape victims also discouraged reporting.

Government officials, including police, did not always act on reported rape cases if the perpetrators were aligned with ZANU-PF. In one high-profile case, a ZANU-PF legislator in the House of Assembly, Munyaradzi Kereke, was convicted of raping his 11-year-old niece in 2010. In July, Kereke was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment. The attorney general at the time declined to prosecute the case on the grounds that there was no evidence linking the legislator to the offense. When the victim’s guardian conducted a private prosecution, the prosecutor general made further attempts to block prosecution. Finally, the Constitutional Court forced the prosecutor general to grant the requisite permission for private prosecution, resulting in Kereke’s subsequent conviction.

According to a credible NGO, there were no reports of rape or sexual harassment being used as a political weapon during the year.

Children born from rape suffered stigmatization and marginalization. The mothers of children resulting from rape sometimes were reluctant to register the births, and such children did not have access to social services.

The adult rape clinics in public hospitals in Harare and Mutare were run as NGOs and did not receive a substantial amount of financial support from the Ministry of Health. The clinics received referrals from police and NGOs. They administered HIV tests, provided medication for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and provided medical services for pregnancy. Although police referred the majority of reported rapes of women and men who received services from the rape centers for prosecution, very few were prosecuted. Private clinics and clinics supported by NGOs and bilateral and multilateral development partners emerged in the past few years to provide medical assistance to survivors of rape. There were also NGOs that provided psychosocial support to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.

Despite the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act in 2006 that criminalized acts of domestic violence, domestic violence remained a serious problem, especially intimate partner violence perpetrated by men against women. Although conviction of domestic violence is punishable by a fine and a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment, authorities generally considered it a private matter, and prosecution was rare.

Most cases of domestic violence went unreported due to traditional sensitivities, victims’ fear of abandonment without support, police reluctance to intervene, and the expectation that perpetrators would not be tried or convicted. There were newspaper reports of wife killings and a few other media reports of prosecutions and convictions for such crimes.

The joint government-NGO Anti-Domestic Violence Council as a whole was ineffective due to lack of funding and the unavailability of information on prevailing trends of domestic violence, although its members were active in raising domestic violence awareness.

The government continued a public awareness campaign against domestic violence. Several women’s rights groups worked with law enforcement agencies and provided training and literature on domestic violence as well as shelters and counseling for women. The high turnover rate within the police force demanded a continuous level of training that could not be met. While public awareness increased, other problems emerged. For example, the form required to report domestic violence was difficult to complete, and victims were often required to make their own photocopies due to police budgetary constraints. The law requires victims of any form of violence to produce a police report to receive treatment without cost at government health facilities. This requirement prevented many rape victims from receiving necessary medical treatment, including post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent victims from contracting HIV.

A local NGO, Musasa Project, which provides emergency shelter and related services for women and girls, handled a monthly average of 2,100 cases of violence. Musasa reported that 50 percent of their clients were girls under age 18.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Virginity testing, although reportedly decreasing, continued to occur in some parts the country during the year.

Sexual Harassment: No specific law criminalizes sexual harassment, but labor law prohibits the practice in the workplace. Media reported that sexual harassment was prevalent in universities, workplaces, and parliament. The Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender, and Community Development acknowledged that lack of sexual harassment policies at higher education institutions was a major cause for concern. This occurred after a student advocacy group, the Female Students Network, revealed incidents of gender-based violence and sexual harassment against students. Female college students reported they routinely encountered unwanted physical contact from male students, lecturers, and nonacademic staff, ranging from touching and inappropriate remarks to rape. Of the 3,425 students’ interviewed, 94 percent indicated they had experienced sexual harassment, while 16 percent reported having been forced into unprotected sex with lecturers or other staff. Some students also reported having been subjected to date rape in relationships with older men, mostly lecturers and other staff. At least 80 percent of tertiary education institutions did not have a sexual harassment policy to protect students. More than half of students said they would not report gender-based violence and sexual harassment because they feared retaliation, among other reasons.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. According to the 2015 DHS, the contraceptive prevalence rate was 66.5 percent. The DHS also reported that 22 percent of girls and women ages 15 to 19 had begun childbearing. Inadequate medical facilities, an advanced HIV/AIDS epidemic, and a shortage of well-trained health-care professionals contributed to the high maternal mortality rate of 651 deaths per 100,000 live births for the period 2008-15 (DHS estimate). The DHS demonstrated continued improvements in maternal health. The percentage of women who received antenatal care from a trained provider and had skilled birth attendance increased to 93 percent and 78 percent, respectively, up from 90 percent and 66 percent in the 2010-11 DHS report. While antenatal care attendance was almost the same between rural and urban areas, skilled birth attendance was much lower in rural areas, 71 percent compared with 93 percent in urban areas.

Discrimination: The constitution provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The constitution’s bill of rights, in the section on the rights of women, states that all “laws, customs, traditions, and practices that infringe the rights of women conferred by this constitution are void to the extent of the infringement.” There is also an institutional framework to address women’s rights and gender equality through the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender, and Community Development and the Gender Commission–one of the independent commissions established under the constitution. Despite the appointment of commissioners in June 2015, the commission received only minimal funding from the government and lacked sufficient independence from the ministry. Despite laws aimed at enhancing women’s rights and countering certain discriminatory traditional practices, women remained disadvantaged in society. Economic dependency and prevailing social norms prevented rural women in particular from combating societal discrimination and from participating equally in the civic and economic life of the country.

The law recognizes a woman’s right to own property, but very few women owned property due to the customary practice of patriarchal inheritance. Less than 20 percent of female farmers were official landowners or named on government lease agreements. Divorce and maintenance laws were equitable, but many women lacked awareness of their rights. Onerous requirements to register for identification documents disadvantaged women, who often lacked the resources or time to fulfill all requirements. Without proper identification, many women were unable to access services or register to vote.

Women have the right to register their children’s births, although either the father or another male relative must be present. If the father or other male relative refuses to register the child, the child may be deprived of a birth certificate, which limits the child’s ability to acquire identify documents and enroll in school. Discrimination with respect to women’s employment also occurred.

Women and children were adversely affected by the government’s forced evictions, demolition of homes and businesses, and takeover of commercial farms. Widows, when forced to relocate to rural areas, were sometimes “inherited” into marriages with an in-law after the deaths of their spouses.

The government gave qualified women access to training in the armed forces and national service, where they occupied primarily administrative positions.

Women remained underrepresented in the media sector, and media coverage of gender and women’s issues was very limited. Objectification of women and perpetuation of gender stereotypes were common in the media.

The United Kingdom Department for International Development’s 2011 Gender and Social Exclusion Analysis Report indicated women experienced extensive economic discrimination, including in access to employment, credit, pay, and owning or managing businesses. The 2015 SADC Gender Barometer reported women constituted 54 percent of unskilled labor, while men made up 59 percent of the professional labor force. More than six of 10 women did not own a home or land.

Women also faced higher levels of food insecurity throughout the country, exacerbated by recent drought. Women accounted for 86 percent of farmers, and 59 percent of women engaged in communal farming, making them particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.


Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from birth in the country and from either parent, and all births are to be registered with the Births and Deaths Registry. The 2012 population census data showed that just one in three children under age five possessed a birth certificate. Of urban children under age five, 55 percent possessed a birth certificate, while 25 percent of rural children did. Children under the care of parents older than age 20 were significantly more likely to have their births registered than were children of younger parents. Many orphaned children were unable to obtain birth certificates. Children of unregistered parents were also less likely to obtain birth certificates. Lack of birth certificates impeded access to public services, such as education and health care, resulting in many children being unable to attend school and increasing their vulnerability to exploitation.

Education: Primary education is not compulsory, free, or universal. The constitution states that every citizen and permanent resident of the country has a right to a basic state-funded education but adds a caveat that the state “must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within the limits of the resources available to it.” According to the 2012 population census, 87 percent of all children attended primary school. School attendance was only slightly higher in urban than in rural areas, and enrollment for children older than 14 was in decline. Urban and rural equity in primary school attendance rates disappeared at the secondary school level. Rural secondary education attendance (44 percent) trailed behind urban attendance (72 percent) by a wide margin. Relatively high and increasing school fees were the main reason for lack of attendance after age 14, particularly affecting girls ages 17 and 18. According to the 2012 government-led DHS, only 52 percent of girls age 17 attended school, compared with 64 percent of boys. Reports that schools turned away students with unpaid fees continued.

Child Abuse: Child abuse, including incest, infanticide, child abandonment, and rape, continued to be serious problems. In 2015 the NGO Childline counseled more than 12,000 children directly affected by abuse through their hotline service. Most of the substantive calls concerned sexual and physical abuse, generally inflicted by a relative or someone who lived with the child. A third of all calls related to cases of child neglect, an increase from previous years as families struggled to respond to food insecurity and unemployment issues. Childline also managed more than 7,000 in-person cases at their drop-in facilities throughout the country. Approximately twice as many girls reported abuse as boys. According to the 2011 National Baseline Survey on Life Experiences of Adolescents Preliminary Report, approximately 9 percent of girls and slightly less than 2 percent of boys between ages 13 and 17 reported experiencing sexual violence in the previous 12 months. Older adolescents reported that one-third of girls and nearly one-tenth of boys experienced sexual violence during childhood. The survey defined sexual violence as unwanted sexual touching, unwanted attempted sex, physically forced sex, and pressured sex.

It is legal for parents and schools to inflict corporal punishment on boys but not girls. The constitution provides that “no person may be subjected to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment,” but the courts had not interpreted the clause nor determined whether it applied to corporal punishment. In addition the Constitutional Court deferred ruling on the constitutionality of caning juvenile offenders as judicial punishment. While the issue remained pending, magistrates may impose corporal punishment on juvenile offenders.

Government efforts to combat child abuse continued to be inadequate and underfunded. The government continued to implement a case management protocol developed in 2013 to guide the provision of child welfare services. In addition there were facilities that served underage victims of sexual assault and abuse.

Early and Forced Marriage: The constitution declares anyone under age 18 a child. On January 20, the Constitutional Court ruled no individual under age 18 may enter into marriage, including customary law unions. The court also struck down a provision of the Marriage Act that allowed girls but not boys to marry at age 16. Despite this ruling, laws on marriage–including the Marriage Act and Customary Law Marriages Act–required further reform in order to align them with the Constitutional Court ruling.

Despite legal prohibitions, mostly rural families continued to force girls to marry. According to the 2012 population census, almost one in four teenage girls were married. Child welfare NGOs reported evidence of underage marriages, particularly in isolated religious communities or among HIV/AIDS orphans who had no relatives willing or able to take care of them. High rates of unemployment, the dropout of girls from school, and the inability of families to earn a stable income were major causes of child marriage.

Families gave girls or young women to other families in marriage to avenge spirits, as compensatory payment in interfamily disputes, or when promised to others–to provide economic protection for the family. Some families sold their daughters as brides in exchange for food, and younger daughters at times married their deceased older sister’s husband as a “replacement” bride. An NGO study published in 2014 found that because of the cultural emphasis placed on virginity, any loss of virginity–real or perceived, consensual or forced–could result in marriage, including early or forced marriage. In some instances family members forced a girl to marry a man based on the mere suspicion that the two had had sexual intercourse. This cultural practice even applied in cases of rape, and the study found numerous instances in which families concealed rape by facilitating the marriage between rapist and victim.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Conviction of statutory rape, legally defined as sexual intercourse with a child under age 12, carries a fine of $2,000, up to 10 years’ imprisonment, or both. A person in possession of child pornography may be charged with public indecency and if convicted faces a fine of $600, imprisonment up to six months, or both. A person convicted of procuring a child under age 16 for purposes of engaging in unlawful sexual conduct is liable to a fine up to $5,000, up to 10 years’ imprisonment, or both. Persons charged with facilitating the prostitution of a child often were also charged with statutory rape. A parent or guardian convicted of allowing a child under age 18 to associate with or become a prostitute may face up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Girls from towns bordering South Africa, Zambia, and Mozambique were subjected to prostitution in brothels that catered to long-distance truck drivers. Increasing economic hardships coupled with the effects of drought also led more girls to turn to prostitution.

Displaced Children: Approximately 10,000 children were displaced from the Tokwe-Mukosi dam area in Masvingo Province (see section 2.d.). The disruption of their parents’ livelihoods negatively affected the children’s access to health care and schooling.

The UN Children’s Fund 2005-10 report estimated 25 percent of children had lost one or both parents to HIV or other causes. The proportion of orphans in the country remained very high. Many orphans were cared for by their extended family or lived in households headed by children.

Orphaned children were more likely to be abused, not enrolled in school, suffer discrimination and social stigma, and be vulnerable to food insecurity, malnutrition, and HIV/AIDS. Some children were forced to turn to prostitution for income. Orphaned children often were unable to obtain birth certificates because they could not provide enough information regarding their parents or afford to travel to offices that issued birth certificates. Orphans were often homeless.

A UN Children’s Fund report stated that government support of the poor “suffered from a severe lack of human and financial resources” and was “in urgent need of review and revival to meet the growing needs of children.”

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


The Jewish community numbered approximately 150 persons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, access to public places, and the provision of services, including education and health care. The constitution and law do not specifically address air travel or other transportation. They do not specify physical, sensory, mental, or intellectual disabilities. NGOs continued to lobby to broaden the legal definition of “disabled” to include persons with albinism, epilepsy, and other conditions. Government institutions often were uninformed and did not implement the law. The lack of resources devoted to training and education severely hampered the ability of persons with disabilities to compete for scarce jobs. The law stipulates that government buildings be accessible to persons with disabilities, but implementation was slow.

The National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (NASCOH) drafted a National Policy on Disabilities in 2009, but the government had not approved the policy. Persons with disabilities faced harsh societal discrimination and exclusion, as well as poor service delivery from state bodies. For example, NASCOH reported that access to justice in courts was compromised for persons with hearing disabilities due to a lack of sign language interpreters. Persons with disabilities living in rural settings faced even greater challenges.

Although two senators were elected to represent persons with disabilities, parliament rarely addressed problems especially affecting persons with disabilities. Parliament does not provide specific line items for persons with disabilities in the various social service ministry budgets.

Most persons holding traditional beliefs viewed persons with disabilities as bewitched, and in extreme cases families hid children with disabilities from visitors. According to NASCOH, the public considered persons with disabilities to be objects of pity rather than persons with rights.

There were very few government-sponsored education facilities dedicated to persons with disabilities. Educational institutions discriminated against children with disabilities. Essential services, including sign language interpreters, Braille materials, and ramps, were not available and prevented children with disabilities from attending school. Many schools refused to accept children with certain disabilities. Schools that accepted students with disabilities offered very little in the way of nonacademic facilities for those accepted as compared with their counterparts without disabilities. Many urban children with disabilities obtained informal education through private institutions, but these options were generally unavailable for persons with disabilities in rural areas. Government programs, such as the basic education assistance module intended to benefit children with disabilities, failed to address adequately the root causes of their systematic exclusion. NASCOH reported that 75 percent of children with disabilities had no access to education.

Women with disabilities faced compounded discrimination, resulting in limited access to services, reduced opportunities for civic and economic participation and increased vulnerability to violence.

Persons with mental disabilities also suffered from inadequate medical care and a lack of health services. There were eight centralized mental health institutions in the country with a total capacity of more than 1,300 residents, in addition to the three special institutions run by the ZPCS for long-term residents and those considered dangerous to society. Residents in the eight centralized institutions received cursory screening, and most waited for at least one year for a full medical review.

A shortage of drugs and adequately trained mental health professionals resulted in persons with mental disabilities not being properly diagnosed and not receiving adequate therapy. There were few certified psychiatrists working in public and private clinics and teaching in the country. NGOs reported that getting access to mental health services was slow and frustrating. They reported persons with mental disabilities suffered from extremely poor living conditions, due in part to shortages of food, water, clothing, and sanitation. Budgetary constraints and limited capacity at these institutions resulted in families keeping persons with mental disabilities at home where family members cared for them.

Prison inmates in the three facilities run by the ZPCS were not necessarily convicted prisoners. Two doctors examined inmates with psychiatric conditions. The doctors were required to confirm a mental disability and recommend an individual for release or return to a mental institution. Inmates with mental disabilities routinely waited as long as three years for evaluation.

There were minimal legal or administrative safeguards to allow participation in the electoral processes by persons with disabilities. Administrative arrangements for voter registration at relevant government offices were burdensome, involving long queues, several hours or days of waiting, and necessary return visits that effectively served to disenfranchise some persons with disabilities. The law permits blind persons to bring an individual with them in marking their ballots.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

According to government statistics, the Shona ethnic group made up 82 percent of the population, Ndebele 14 percent, whites and Asians less than 1 percent, and other ethnic and racial groups 3 percent. ZANU-PF leaders often encouraged hatred of whites through public speeches and broadcasts. This created tension between ZANU-PF supporters and whites. Historical tension between the Shona majority and the Ndebele minority resulted in marginalization of the Ndebele by the Shona-dominated government. During the 2013 elections, the mainstream MDC-T often accused Welshman Ncube of the Movement for Democratic Change-Ncube (MDC-N) of campaigning on a tribal platform. In turn the smaller MDC-N complained of continued victimization and neglect of the minority Ndebele by the Shona-dominated MDC-T and ZANU-PF.

The government continued its attempts to blame the country’s economic and political problems on the white minority and western countries. Police seldom arrested ZANU-PF supporters or charged them with infringing upon minority rights, particularly the property rights of the minority white commercial farmers or wildlife conservancy owners targeted in the land redistribution program.

The government enforced few of the provisions or timelines in the 2007 indigenization law, and no businesses were forced to transfer ownership. The law defines an indigenous Zimbabwean as any person, or the descendant of such person, who before the date of the country’s independence in 1980 was disadvantaged. The official purpose of the indigenization law was to increase the participation of indigenous citizens in the economy, including at least 51 percent indigenous ownership of all businesses. Legal experts criticized the law as unfairly discriminatory and a violation of the constitution.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The constitution does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. According to the country’s criminal code, “any act involving physical contact between men that would be regarded by a reasonable person to be an indecent act” carries a penalty if convicted of up to one year in prison or a fine up to $5,000. Despite that, there were no known cases of prosecutions of consensual same-sex sexual activity. Common law prevents gay men and, to a lesser extent, lesbians from fully expressing their sexual orientation. In some cases it criminalizes the display of affection between men.

President Mugabe and ZANU-PF leaders publicly criticized the LGBTI community, rejecting the promotion of LGBTI rights as contrary to the country’s values, norms, traditions, and beliefs.

The police reportedly detained and held persons suspected of being gay for up to 48 hours before releasing them. LGBTI advocacy groups also reported police used extortion and threats to intimidate persons based on their sexual orientation. Members of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, the primary organization dedicated to advancing the rights of LGBTI persons, experienced harassment and discrimination.

Religious leaders in this traditionally conservative and Christian society encouraged discrimination against LGBTI persons. For example, Walter Magaya, leader of the Healing and Deliverance Ministries, continued to host shows on television and radio during which he “healed” members of the LGBTI community.

LGBTI persons reported widespread societal discrimination based on sexual orientation. In response to social pressure, some families subjected their LGBTI members to “corrective” rape and forced marriages to encourage heterosexual conduct. Women in particular were subjected to rape by male family members. Victims rarely reported such crimes to police.

LGBTI persons often left school at an early age due to discrimination. Higher education institutions reportedly threatened to expel students based on their sexual orientation. Members of the LGBTI community also had higher rates of unemployment and homelessness. Many persons who identified themselves as LGBTI did not seek medical care for sexually transmitted diseases or other health problems due to fear that health-care providers would shun them or report them to authorities. Since the completion of a nation-wide sensitization program for health-care workers, however, the LGBTI community reported an improvement in health service delivery.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The government has a national HIV/AIDS policy that prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS, and the law prohibits discrimination against workers with HIV/AIDS in the private sector and parastatals. Despite these provisions, societal discrimination against persons affected by HIV/AIDS remained a problem. Local NGOs reported persons affected by HIV/AIDS faced discrimination in health services, education, and employment. Although there was an active information campaign to destigmatize HIV/AIDS by international and local NGOs, the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, and the National AIDS Council, such ostracism and criticism continued.

In the 2015 DHS, 22 percent of women and 20 percent of men reported they held discriminatory attitudes towards those living with HIV/AIDS.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Inexplicable disappearances and killings, sometimes involving mutilation of the victim, often were attributed to customary or traditional rituals, in some cases involving a healer who requested a human body part to complete a required task. Police generally rejected the “ritual killing” explanation, despite its being commonly used in society and the press.

Promotion of Acts of Discrimination

Throughout the year government-controlled media continued to vilify white citizens and blame them for the country’s problems. President Mugabe was complicit in vilifying white citizens and urged the eviction of remaining white farmers.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits employment or occupational discrimination based on race, color, gender, tribe, political opinion, creed, place of origin, disability, HIV status, or pregnancy. The law does not expressly prohibit employment discrimination regarding age, language, citizenship, social origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or non-HIV related communicable diseases. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to race, gender, disability, and sexual orientation (see section 6).

The constitution provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. Labor legislation prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, and an employer may be held liable for civil remedies if found to be in violation of provisions against “unfair labor practices,” including sexual harassment. The law does not specify penalties for conviction of such violations. Women commonly faced sexual harassment in the workplace (see section 6).

There were no formal complaints of wage discrimination filed with the Ministry of Labor; however, women’s salaries lagged behind those of men in most sectors. Unions expressed their concern regarding wage disparity between management and employees.

There was a relative lack of women in decision-making positions, despite a constitutional requirement that both genders be equally represented in all institutions and agencies of government at every level. In 2014 the share of women in wage employment in the nonagricultural sector was 37 percent, while their share in senior and middle management was 24 percent.

Discrimination against migrant workers occurred, especially those employed in the informal sector. Discrimination with respect to political affiliation also occurred. In 2015 a village headman in Marondera was fired for being affiliated with the MDC-T. Also in 2015 a headman in Makoni Central denied a MDC-T-affiliated applicant a job in the rural health clinic because he said the clinic could not employ an opposition party member.

Banks targeted union workers for dismissal, according to the ZCTU. Persons with HIV/AIDS and LGBTI persons faced discrimination in employment. White farmers were sometimes deprived of their livelihoods and property through illegal farm seizures. Employers discriminated against members of minority ethnic groups who they often perceived as opposition supporters. Disabled persons faced social and employment discrimination and lack of access to many workplaces.

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