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Combating Gender-Based Violence in Zambia: Initiatives and Challenges

By Bernadette Deka-Zulu (PhD Researcher – Public Enterprise)

Unveiling the Epidemic: GBV’s Gripping Reality in Zambia

Gender-based violence (GBV) isn’t just a local issue; it’s a global epidemic that inflicts profound harm on individuals, fractures families, and tears at the social fabric of communities. In Zambia, GBV’s shadow looms large, haunting the lives of countless women and girls, leaving behind scars that mar their very existence. This section serves as a poignant exploration into the pervasive nature of GBV in Zambia and the unwavering efforts mobilized to combat this urgent societal crisis.

GBV isn’t a distant threat but a harsh reality that lurks within the corridors of Zambian society. It infiltrates homes, schools, workplaces, and public spaces, casting a dark cloud over the lives of women and girls from all walks of life. Despite strides in other areas, GBV stubbornly persists as a formidable obstacle to Zambia’s progress, demanding urgent Prevalence of Gender-Based Violence in Zambia

Gender-based violence in Zambia manifests in various forms, including physical, sexual, psychological, and economic abuse. According to a survey conducted by the Zambia Demographic and Health Survey (ZDHS) in 2018, 47% of women aged 15-49 reported experiencing physical violence, while 34% reported experiencing sexual violence. These alarming statistics underscore the urgent need for comprehensive interventions to combat GBV in the country.

Efforts to Address Gender-Based Violence

In response to the pervasive nature of GBV, Zambia has implemented various initiatives aimed at preventing violence, supporting survivors, and holding perpetrators accountable.

Support Services for Survivors

One crucial aspect of addressing GBV is the provision of support services for survivors. Organizations such as Women in Law in Southern Africa-Zambia (WLSA) and Women for Change (WfC) offer counseling, legal aid, and shelter to survivors of GBV. These services play a vital role in empowering survivors to seek justice and rebuild their lives.

Legal Reforms

Zambia has also made strides in enacting legal reforms to strengthen protections against GBV. The enactment of the Anti-Gender-Based Violence Act in 2010 marked a significant milestone in the country’s efforts to address GBV comprehensively. The law criminalizes various forms of GBV and provides for harsh penalties for perpetrators. Additionally, the Domestic Violence Act provides legal remedies and protection for survivors of domestic violence.

Awareness Campaigns

Awareness campaigns are another essential component of Zambia’s response to GBV. Non-governmental organizations, government agencies, and community leaders collaborate to raise awareness about the root causes of GBV, challenge harmful gender norms, and promote gender equality. These campaigns aim to change attitudes and behaviors that perpetuate violence against women and girls.

Madagascar’s Controversial Legislation on Child Rape

While Zambia continues to grapple with GBV, neighboring Madagascar recently enacted a controversial law mandating surgical castration and life imprisonment for individuals convicted of raping children under the age of ten. This legislation, fulfilling a campaign promise by President Andry Rajoelina, aims to modify the previous law, which sanctioned lesser penalties for child rape offenders. While some, including Minister of Justice Landy Randriamanantenasoa, support the bill, international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International have strongly objected to it. Critics argue that the law contradicts constitutional and international human rights standards and could exacerbate under-reporting of rape cases.


As Zambia continues its battle against gender-based violence (GBV), it is essential to consider recommendations and insights from experts in the field. Drawing upon their expertise, the following section offers actionable recommendations and thought-provoking insights to guide future efforts in combating GBV effectively.

  1. Strengthening Support Services: While Zambia has made commendable strides in providing support services for GBV survivors, there is a need for continuous improvement and expansion. Experts suggest increasing funding and resources allocated to organizations such as Women in Law in Southern Africa-Zambia (WLSA) and Women for Change (WfC) to enhance the reach and quality of services provided. Additionally, collaboration with mental health professionals and community-based organizations can ensure holistic support for survivors.
  2. Enhancing Legal Frameworks: Legal reforms play a crucial role in addressing GBV and holding perpetrators accountable. Experts emphasize the importance of rigorously enforcing existing laws, such as the Anti-Gender-Based Violence Act and the Domestic Violence Act, to ensure justice for survivors. Furthermore, ongoing training for law enforcement officials and judiciary personnel is essential to improve their capacity to handle GBV cases sensitively and effectively.
  3. Scaling Up Awareness Campaigns: Awareness campaigns are powerful tools for challenging societal norms and promoting gender equality. Experts recommend scaling up existing campaigns and diversifying outreach strategies to reach marginalized communities and remote areas. Incorporating educational modules on GBV prevention and gender equality into school curricula can also foster long-term societal change by instilling values of respect and empathy from a young age.
  4. Addressing Underreporting: Underreporting of GBV cases remains a significant challenge in Zambia, hindering efforts to accurately assess the prevalence of violence and provide support to survivors. Experts stress the importance of creating safe spaces for survivors to report incidents of violence without fear of stigma or retaliation. Building trust between law enforcement agencies and communities, particularly in rural areas, is crucial for encouraging reporting and facilitating access to justice.
  5. Engaging Men and Boys: Gender-based violence is not just a women’s issue; it requires the active involvement of men and boys as allies and advocates for change. Experts highlight the importance of engaging men and boys in GBV prevention efforts through targeted awareness campaigns, education programs, and community dialogues. By challenging harmful notions of masculinity and promoting positive, equitable relationships, men and boys can become catalysts for cultural transformation.
  6. International Collaboration: Given the transnational nature of GBV, experts emphasize the importance of international collaboration and exchange of best practices. Zambia can benefit from partnerships with neighboring countries, regional organizations, and international agencies to share lessons learned, access technical expertise, and leverage resources for GBV prevention and response efforts.

Conclusion: Guiding Zambia’s Path Forward

In conclusion, the recommendations provide valuable guidance for Zambia’s ongoing efforts to combat gender-based violence. With collective action and unwavering commitment, Zambia can pave the way for a future where all individuals, regardless of gender, can live free from violence and discrimination. Gender-based violence remains a critical challenge in Zambia, requiring concerted efforts from government, civil society, and the international community to address comprehensively. While initiatives such as support services for survivors, legal reforms, and awareness campaigns have made progress in combating GBV, there is still much work to be done. The recent controversy surrounding Madagascar’s legislation highlights the complexities of addressing GBV and underscores the importance of balancing justice with human rights principles in the fight against gender-based violence.



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