Zambia has highest rate of gender based violence

 

Lusaka- Statistics show that Zambia at a rate of 89 percent has the highest incidences of Gender Based Violence (GBV) against women in the Southern African Development Community region despite having a law to curb the vice.

The revelation came as the world celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8 with a number of activities held globally including in Southern Africa to mark the day.

Organisations dealing with gender issues were also part of these activities and statistics in the case of Southern Africa show that incidences of GBV are high in some countries in the region with Zambia topping the list and women forming the biggest number of victims of GBV.

Zambia’s rate of gender based violence was put at 89 percent, making it the country with highest incidences of GBV in Southern African despite the Government enacting laws to curb the vice.

According to a baseline survey, Zambia tops the list followed closely by Lesotho at 86 percent.

The survey was carried out by the Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information and Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS) and is contained in the Southern Africa, Gender Links of November 2014.

According to the report, 89 per cent of women in Zambia, chiefly from areas including Kasama, near the border with Tanzania, Kitwe in northern Zambia, Mansa, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mazabuka, near the border with Zimbabwe have been cited to have experienced high cases of GBV.

Zimbabwe is rated third at 68 percent, Botswana 67 percent while South Africa has a GBV rate of 50 with (Gauteng, Limpopo, Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal) cited as the worst affected areas.

The incidence of GBV against women in Mauritius was rated at 24 per cent.

SAfAIDS has over the years been working to ensure women’s development, gender equality, HIV and Sexual as well as Reproductive Health issues among women and girls are recognised and accorded the prominence they deserve.

“GBV continues to have a significant bearing on new HIV infections, as the perpetrator has the upper hand in dictating what happens in a sexual relationship, including whether to use protection or not. SAfAIDS has been implementing a number of programmes in the region to ensure that we contribute to ending AIDS,” stated SAfAIDS.

Gender Links Board Member Sarah Lungwe said in Zambia men were the main perpetrators of GBV against women.

Lungwe added that 90 percent of women have been GBV victims and that one in every three women was battered by her close relation, husband or boyfriend and that 72 percent of males have admitted beating up their wives and girlfriends.

She regretted Zambia’s high rate of GBV despite being known as an oasis of peace in the Southern African region.

Lungwe said the increase in cases of GBV was partly a result of some frustrated women GBV victims who do not report the cases to relevant institutions despite campaigns seeking to attain zero GBV.

Former Zambian President, Rupiah Banda in April 2011 signed the Anti-Gender Based Violence Act into law and immediately stated that it was a major step forward in the fight against GBV in Zambia.

Considered one of the most comprehensive laws on GBV in the SADC region, the Act gives hope to many women and children who have been subjected to GBV without adequate recourse.

It offers a comprehensive framework for protection and means of survival for victims and survivors of GBV as well as prosecution of perpetrators.

Gender based violence continues to be a problem in Zambia with the number of reported cases on the rise.

According to research, in Zambia one in every five women has experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives.

 Of all the forms of violence, spousal abuse or domestic violence was the highest form of abuse reported.

It is hoped that if Government and stakeholders ensure the implementation of the Act, it will contribute to reducing levels of gender based violence.

The Act was promulgated after more than 10 years of advocacy for a comprehensive and effective piece of legislation and has been received well by all sections of Zambian society and particularly women’s organisations.

The years of ground work have paid off because unlike other SADC countries that have specific Domestic Violence Acts, Zambia has an anti-gender based violence law which is more far reaching and comprehensive.

The Act takes its inspiration from the gender based violence provisions of Articles 20 – 25 of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development which calls on States to enact and enforce legislation prohibiting all forms of GBV; discourage traditional norms including social, economic, cultural and political practices that perpetuate GBV; hold public awareness programmes; adopt integrated approaches; provision of specialised facilities including support mechanisms for survivors of GBV among other obligations.

The Zambian law is one of the few GBV Acts in SADC that specifically provides for the establishment of a Gender Based Violence Fund to assist victims, establishment of an all-inclusive GBV Committee, establishment of shelters, provision of emergency monetary relief and the addressing of harmful traditional practices.

There are, however, some shortcomings identified by organisations like Women in Law in Southern Africa (WLSA).

For example the term “domestic relationships” excludes some forms of gender based violence such as violence associated with prostitution; violence at the work place; violence by the police and security forces including torture of detained women.

The Act targets perpetrators of GBV, the judiciary which handles cases of GBV when taken to court, the police, Government departments, women and men, civil society, the church and other stakeholders, and the Nation at large.

Government agencies and civil society have begun disseminating and sensitising the public on the provisions of the Act, training the judiciary; devising a communication strategy and putting together a National Gender Monitoring and Evaluation Plan. This is being done in tandem with the reviewing of the National Gender Policy.

Challenges to be dealt with include effective implementation; limited financial and human resources; weak monitoring and evaluation strategies; slow court trials; public awareness especially in rural areas; and types of violence not catered for by the Act.

But the Act sets a precedent for other SADC countries. It is a good practise that can and should be replicated, the report adds.

March 2015
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