Zambia: End Sexual Violence in Schools
According the UN Women, Zambia has one of the highest rates of sexual and gender-based violence in the world, with 43 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 having experienced some form of sexual violence.
It is indicated that hardly a day goes by without incidents of rape, defilement, physical and mental abuse being reported. In some locations in Zambia, the situation is so dire that an average of 50 violations are recorded per day.
Adolescent and school girls are on the receiving end of these violations, often in traditionally safe spaces such as schools and homes where guardians and caregivers are sometimes the perpetrators. Many girls are raped, sexually abused and harassed by their male teachers and male classmates whenever they go to school. Unfortunately, these incidents are largely unreported owing to the fear of retaliatory attacks, victim shaming as well as an unresponsive legal and education system.
At the same time sexual violence is rooted in deep-seated gender inequalities that exist within the Zambian society. These inequalities dictate the power structures between men and women and also determine how gender relations should take place.
Girls are therefore forced to live with the overwhelming realities of these abuses including psychological, physical, mental and behavioural harm. In addition, the culture of silence worsens the situation by ensuring that girls are locked out of the justice system while at the same time discouraging them from wholly accessing their right to education – sometimes due to pregnancies arising out of these violations. It also reinforces and normalises the existence of sexual and gender based violations in Zambia.
To address the sexual exploitation of girls in Zambia there is need to ensure that these adolescent girls are protected from violations and that they can freely report these. Adolescent girls should not face the additional discrimination of being prohibited from accessing their right to education.
We are advocating for legal and systemic reforms that will drive this discourse and hold the government of Zambia to account.
Please join us in calling upon the President of Zambia Edgar Lungu; the Ministries of Gender; General Education; and Home Affairs to:
- protect adolescent girls from abuse;
- make schools safe for girls;
- and prosecute perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence.
You can also take action to address sexual violence in your community by:
- Ensure that girls and women within your immediate environment are protected from sexual and physical violations by reporting incidents of sexual and physical violation of girls and women whenever they occur;
- Write to your Member of Parliament and tag them online (if possible) asking them to take deliberate steps in ensuring that the right to education for girls is upheld and that the ban is lifted; and
- Ask your MP to ensure that laws are harmonised so that girls can be protected from sexual and physical violence and also from early, child and forced marriages.