Zambia’s sexual offences laws are in the Penal Code 1931 (PC), as amended. The rules set out in the Criminal Procedure Code Act and the Evidence Act apply to sexual offences under the PC.

In 2005, the PC was amended to raise the age of consent to 16 for opposite-sex sexual activity and make most sexual offences gender-neutral. However, these positive reforms were not extended to other sexual offences provisions in the PC, many of which do not meet good practice. In particular, rape is limited to penile penetration of the vagina, marital rape and sexual assault are not expressly criminalised, the specific child sexual assault offences are not comprehensive and are weakened by not providing appropriate close-in-age defences. These defences are necessary to avoid criminalising young people and children who engage in consensual sexual activity with their peers. The PC also criminalises sexual intercourse with a woman who has an intellectual disability regardless of her capacity to freely consent and uses the derogatory terms ‘imbecile’ and ‘idiot’.

The legislation criminalises consensual same-sex sexual activity, such as ‘carnal knowledge against the order of nature’ and ‘gross indecency ’. Laws that criminalise consensual same-sex sexual activity should be repealed and all non-consensual sexual acts, including anal ‘rape’, should be included in the general sexual assault provisions, such as ‘rape’ and ‘sexual assault’, as well as in child sexual offences. All of these crimes should be gender-neutral.

Zambia is a state party to relevant international and regional human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Convention on the Rights of the Child, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It is also a party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol).

Read more about the criminalisation of LGBT people in Zambia.

The full assessment of Zambia is available here.

NEXT STEPS TOWARDS REFORM: Africa

NEXT STEPS TOWARDS REFORM: Africa

This report examines the status of sexual offences legislation in Commonwealth Africa, assessing good practice and identifying where there are gaps in protection, with a particular focus on women, children, LGBT+ people and people with disability.

GOOD PRACTICE IN HUMAN RIGHTS COMPLIANT SEXUAL OFFENCES LAWS

GOOD PRACTICE IN HUMAN RIGHTS COMPLIANT SEXUAL OFFENCES LAWS

This report lays out criteria for good practice human rights compliant laws across four areas of sexual offences legislation, namely rape/sexual assault, age of consent for sexual conduct, treatment of consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults, and sexual offences in relation to people with disability.

CHANGING LAWS, CHANGING LIVES

CHANGING LAWS, CHANGING LIVES

Since 2015, the Trust's legislative reform programme has been analysing the need for the reform of sexual offence laws and delivering technical assistance to support such reform. Find out more about our Changing Laws, Changing Lives programme.

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