Over 36 percent of Zambian women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15, the latest AfroBarometer Survey has revealed.
According to the survey, one in five women and girls (20%) suffer sexual abuse before age 18, and 39 percent are married before age 18.
AfroBarometer National Lead Investigator, Edward Chibwili, from the University of Zambia (UNZA) presented the survey findings on Thursday in Lusaka.
Chibwili said the survey further noted that the Victim Support Unit of the Zambia Police Service reported a 29 percent increase in gender-based violence (GBV) cases in the fourth quarter of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021.
He said the increase in GBV was from 7,920 cases to 10,241, though many other incidents go unreported.
“Activists point to poverty, women’s power disadvantage in relationships, and social acceptance of GBV as key factors leaving many women vulnerable to abusive spouses, workmates, male relatives, and well-off individuals,” Chibwili said.
He said to help protect women and girls, the AfroBarometer survey noted that Zambia had domesticated international and regional conventions on women’s rights in national laws and instruments.
“These include the Anti-Human Trafficking Act (2008), the Anti-Gender Based Violence Act (2011), the National Gender Policy (2014), and the National Plan of Action,” Chibwili said.
He said the World Bank’s 2023 Zambia Gender-Based Violence Assessment identified a variety of GBV prevention and response programmes in the country, including hospital-based and village-led one-stop centres and shelters, counselling services, and fast-track courts.
Chibwili said the World Bank study also notes that the aforementioned efforts were often under-funded, poorly coordinated, and geographically limited, failing to reach many of the country’s GBV survivors.
“This dispatch reports on a special survey module included in the AfroBarometer Round 9 (2021/2023) questionnaire to assess Africans’ experiences and perceptions of gender-based violence,” he said.
Chibwili said the Survey findings showed that Zambians see GBV as the most important women’s-rights issue that their government and society must address.
He added that while most Zambians said it was never justified for a man to use physical force to discipline his wife, a majority said violence against women and girls was common in their communities.
Chibwili said under the survey, it was established that slim majorities also consider domestic violence a private matter to be handled within the family and think it’s likely that a woman who reports GBV to the authorities would be criticised, harassed by others.
“The AfroBarometer key findings indicate that gender-based violence tops the list of the most important women’s rights issues that Zambians says the government and society must address,” he said.
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