Zambia is ranked 58 out of 86 in the 2012 Social Institutions and Gender Index.
The country was ranked 85 out of 102 in the 2009 Social Institutions and Gender Index.
In 2011, the Human Development Index for Zambia was 0.430, placing the country at 164 out of 187 countries. For the Gender Inequality Index Zambia received a score of 0.627, placing the country at 131 out of 146 countries with data. In 2011, the World Economic Forum ranked Zambia 106 out of 135 countries in its 2011 Global Gender Gap Report, with a score of 0.6300 where 0 represents inequality and 1 represents equality.
Marriage in Zambia is governed by a dual legal system of statutory and customary laws. The Marriage Act provides for the minimum age of 16 for either male or female. Parental consent is required if either part is below 21. Under customary law it is legal to marry a girl child who has attained puberty. The law required marriage to be entered into with the consent of both parties, however it is reported that some customary marriages take place without the consent of the woman or her parents. The government reports that the payment of a bride price is still prevalent for statutory and customary marriages.
The United Nations reports, based on 2002 data that 27 per cent of girls between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed in Zambia, compared to 2 percent of boys in the same age range. In 1969, 41 percent of girls aged between 15 and 19 were married, divorced or widowed which indicates that societal acceptance of early marriage has declined in recent decades.
Polygamy is not permitted under statutory marriages entered into under the Marriage Act. However, polygamy is permitted and accepted as normal under customary laws in Zambia, particularly in patrilineal societies.
A 2007 Demographic and Health Survey found that polygamy affected 15 per cent of married women in Zambia. The prevalence of the practice varies according to region and level of education: it is more common in rural areas, although the figures have recently risen in urban areas, and the incidence is very low among women who have received higher education. Data from previous Demographic and Health Surveys show that the incidence of polygamy has decreased from 18 percent in 1992, indicating that the acceptance of the practice is slowing declining.
Husbands are traditionally the heads of families in Zambia. In 2010, the government reported that the payment of a bride price provides husbands with absolute rights over children and the reproductive rights of the wife. In the event of divorce following a legal marriage, the courts grant child custody in the best interests of the children. However, in the case of separation after a customary marriage, the children typically stay with the father.
The Intestate Succession Act of 1989 recognises women’s rights to inheritance whether married under statutory or customary Laws. According to the law, widows have the right to inherit 20 per cent of their husbands’ property. Fifty percent of the estate goes to the children of the deceased (irrespective of gender), 20 percent to the parents of the deceased and 10 percent to other dependents. In polygamous marriages, half of the inheritance is divided between the children (irrespective of gender) and the remainder is split equally between the wives. Further, under some customary laws, women and children are not allowed to inherit. According to the Chronic Poverty Research Centre, 31.77 percent of widows inherited majority of assets after their spouses in 2007.
Despite the 1989 law, property grabbing from widows is a common practice, particularly in rural areas. A 2006 survey by the Central Statistical Office of Zambia found that three out of four victims of property grabbing did not take any action to change their circumstances. Further, 22 percent of children of widows were affected by inheritance issues, with female children being twice as likely to be affected as male children.
Widows are also discriminated against in the practice of being claims by their deceased spouses’ relatives. The 2006 survey found that 15 percent of female widows were married off to a relation of the deceased, compared to 4 percent of males. The practice is more common in rural areas.
Women’s position in the family can also be gleaned from their participation in house-hold decision making. Data from the 2007 Demographic Health Survey provides a snapshot of gender equality in house-hold decision making in Zambia. For large household purchases, 42 percent of married women reported that decisions were made jointly with their husbands and 44 percent reported that decisions were made solely by their husbands. Decisions about daily household needs are primarily made by women themselves (60 percent).
 CEDAW (2010) p.50  CEDAW (2010) p.16  Sichikwenkwe, P. (2009) p.32  CEDAW (2010) p.49  United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2008)  CEDAW (2010) p.50  CEDAW (2002b) para 12  Demographic and Health Survey (2007)  CEDAW (2010) p.49  CEDAW (2010) pp.50-51  CEDAW (2010) p.19  Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (2004) p.148  Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (2004) p.148  Sichikwenkwe, P. (2009) p.31  Chronic Poverty Research Centre (2011) p.20  Central Statistical Office of Zambia (2006)  Central Statistical Office of Zambia (2006)  Demographic Health Survey (2007) p.260
The Penal Code in Zambia prohibits rape with heavy penalties including life imprisonment. Marital rape is not prohibited under the Penal Code. There is no specific law against domestic violence; however the Penal Code’s assault provisions can apply to cases of spousal abuse. According to the US Department of State, sexual harassment in the workplace is prohibited in Zambia.
It should be noted that a number of non-governmental organisations have proposed a Sexual Offences and Gender Violence Bill. The proposed bill would make substantive amendments to criminal law with regard to violence against women and children. The draft bill defines gender-based violence, including explicit psychological and economic violence, marital rape, dowry violence, widow inheritance or property grabbing, female genital mutilation, female infanticide, child marriage, among other offences occurring in the family, as well as exploitation and trafficking. It also provides for aggravated sentences when rape results in HIV transmission and for the presumption of lack of consent when the victim is a child or unable to resist. It provides for the creation of a Sexual Offences and Gender Violence Court and the granting of protection orders to victims. In 2010, the government reported that it intends to facilitate debate on the proposed bill through the Zambia Law Development Commission.
Survey data indicates that violence against women is common in Zambia. The 2007 Demographic Health Survey found that one in five women reported that they have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives. The majority (64 percent) of women reported that their current or former husband, partner, or boyfriend committed the act of sexual violence. For women who were younger than 15 years old when their first experience of sexual violence occurred, 19 percent reported that the perpetrators were a relative.
With respect to domestic violence, the 2007 Demographic Health Survey found that almost half of all women had experienced physical violence since they were 15. Of those who experienced physical violence since the age of 15, 77 percent reported that their current or former husband or partner. This indicates that the vast majority of physical violence experienced by women in Zambia is from their husbands and partners. A factor contributing to the high prevalence of domestic violence is the acceptance of violence in the community. The 2007 Demographic Health Survey found that significant numbers of both women (62 percent) and men (48 percent) believe that a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife in certain circumstances.
Human Rights Watch reports that sexual violence and other severe forms of violence against women are common for women in detention, primarily perpetrated by police officials. They report that police officers try to coerce female detainees into sex in exchange for their release.  The US Department of State also reports that there have been recent reports that police officers raped women and young girls while they were in custody.
Key challenges in Zambia are the lack of enforcement of the law and culture of impunity for perpetrators of violence against women. The World Organisation Against Torture reports that although the government has established specialist units with the police force to respond to violence against women, discriminatory attitudes amongst the police and judiciary prevent women from reporting violence. It is reported that women are often pressured by law enforcement officials into withdrawing complaints of violence or reconciling with abusive husbands.
The US Department of State reports that increased public awareness of violence against women has resulted in increased reports to police in recent years. Further, the government has established shelters, a toll-free phone line, provided training for police officers on gender-based violence and set up a number of comprehensive support services.
Female genital mutilation reportedly not practiced in Zambia.
Limitations on women’s reproductive rights also infringes upon women’s physical integrity in Zambia. The 1972 Termination of Pregnancy Act allows access to safe abortion on medical or social grounds. However, due to a lack of awareness of the legality of abortion amongst women and health care providers, many maternal deaths are the result of complications from unsafe abortions. The 2007 Demographic and Health Survey found that overall 41 percent of married women use contraception and 33 percent use modern methods of contraception. Access to reproductive health services is a challenge with 26 percent of married women reporting an unmet need with respect to family planning.
 OMCT (2007) p.20  OMCT (2007) p.20  OMCT (2007) p.20  US Department of State (2010)  OMCT (2007) p.20  CEDAW (2010) p.12  Demographic Health Survey (2007) p.278  Demographic Health Survey (2007) pp.275-278  Demographic Health Survey (2007) pp.263-265  Human Rights Watch (2010)  US Department of State (2010)  OMCT (2007) p.9  US Department of State (2010)  Inter-Parliamentary Union (n.d.)  OMCT (2007) p.15  Demographic Health Survey (2007)
Gender disaggregated data on rates of infant mortality and early childhood nutrition are not available for Zambia. With respect to access to education, the World Economic Forum reports that Zambia has reached gender parity in primary school enrolments which indicates that there is no preferential treatment of sons with respect to primary school education. However, a gender gap persists in secondary and tertiary education enrolments, suggesting that the education of sons continues to be more highly valued than the education of daughters.
The male/female sex ratio for the total population in 2012 is 1.
There is no evidence to suggest that Zambia is a country of concern in relation to missing women.
Zambia has a two tier system of land ownership which consists of state and customary land. Although the government passed the Land Act in 1996 which guaranteed women the possibility of being land owners, the legislation allows for customary laws to dictate land ownership which mainly confers land ownership to men. Under customary law, men dominate the allocation, inheritance and use of land. Women generally lack control over land but may have access and user rights to the land. To improve women’s access to land, the Ministry of Justice has issued a circular allocating 30 percent of all advertised land to women, however there is no monitoring mechanism to guarantee women have access to this land. In 2010, the government reported to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against women, that it was considering an amendment to the Lands Act to reserve 30 percent of titled land for women. 
With respect to women’s access to property other than land, tn a statutory marriage, women are entitled to enter into contracts and have access to property other than land, either individually or jointly with their husbands. Women who enter into customary marriages are not authorised to acquire possessions; after a divorce, they are entitled to keep only kitchen utensils and gifts received from their husbands.
The difficulties Zambian women experience in obtaining access to bank loans is related to their lack of ownership rights and lack of economic empowerment. Most women are unable to provide the required guarantees and, although the practice is illegal, banks often demand that women provide proof of their husbands’ consent when applying for loans. It is reported however, that sue to advocacy and lobbying efforts, there has recently been a significant increase in the number of women with access to credit, particularly in urban areas. 
 CEDAW (2010) p.44  Sichikwenkwe, P. (2009) p.51  CEDAW (2010) p.44  Sichikwenkwe, P. (2009) p.51  CEDAW (2010) p.44  United Nations Development Programme (n.d.) p.6  United Nations Development Programme (n.d.) p.6  Sichikwenkwe, P. (2009) p.50  Sichikwenkwe, P. (2009) p.50
There are no reported legal restrictions on women’s freedom of movement in Zambia. However, in practice men continue to control women’s movement. For example, the 2007 Demographic Health Survey shows the extent to which men in Zambia support women’s right to make decisions about their movement. When asked who should make decisions about visits to a wife’s family or relatives, only 7 percent of married men said the wife should make the decision, and 54 percent said the husband should make the decision. 
The US Department of State reports that the government in Zambia generally respects the right to freedom of association.  There is evidence to suggest that Zambia has an active women’s movement with the civil society organisations leading major reforms such as the proposed bill on gender-based violence.
With respect to women’s participation in political life, the World Economic Forum reports that women make up only 14 per cent of Zambia’s parliamentarians and 17 per cent of Ministerial positions.
In addition to the non-discrimination provisions in the constitution, Industrial and Labour Relations Act specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in employment. Further, the Employment Act provides for paid maternity leave of 12 weeks at full pay.
Zambia, formerly known as the territory of Northern Rhodesia, gained independence from British rule in 1964. Zambia has a mixed economy consisting of a modern urban sector that and a rural agricultural sector. Zambia's economy has experienced strong growth in recent years. The World Bank classifies Zambia as a low income country.
Zambia has introduced a number of legal and policy reforms to promote gender equality. However, women in Zambia remain unequal compared to their male counterparts on most indicators including economic empowerment, educational attainment and political empowerment. A key obstacle to gender equality in Zambia is persistence of discriminatory practices in the family arising from the dual legal system and high levels of gender based violence. Discriminatory customary laws prevail in areas of personal status, marriage, divorce and inheritance.
Article 11 of Zambia’s Constitution guarantees the equal status of women. However, article 23 of the Constitution permits discriminatory laws in the areas of personal law and customary law. Zambia ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1985.
 Central Intelligence Agency (2011)  Central Intelligence Agency (2011)  World Bank (n.d.)  World Economic Forum (2010) p.316  United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (2002a) paras 238, 250
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