Zambia: Children’s Code Act

March 7, 2024

Zambia makes the most landmark legislation on children becoming the eleventh state in Africa in realizing the importance to protect and safeguard children. The legislation has full prohibition of corporal punishment of children in all settings, defining the practice as “the prohibited punishment in which physical force is used on a child.” The Code also states “a person shall not subject a child to torture, cruel treatment or punishment, unlawful arrest or deprivation of liberty,” and repeals child rights legislations that allowed the practice to persist.

Zambia is the 64th state worldwide, and the eleventh state in Africa to realise children’s right to protection from all corporal punishment, which is the worst and the common form of violence against children both mentally and physically. The law reform process was spearheaded by the then Ministry of Youth, Sport and Child Development and the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services.

The Code also achieved many other crucial reforms to end violence against children and protect their rights. The Code has explicitly prohibited child marriage, which is common in Zambia and also female genital mutilation, which is hazardous to children and which was prevalent for ages. It also calls to ensure children’s right to protection from sexual harassment. These forms of violence and abuse, prevalent across so many countries, come at a great cost to the liberty, safety and development of children, especially girls. The explicit legal prohibition is a key step to protecting children. The Code has also established a standard definition for a child as a person aged 18 years or below, and placed an obligation on all institutions to establish and implement child safeguarding and protection procedures. This Act codifies various children’s rights including the right to social protection and social services, the right to health care, parental care, education, survival and development; the right to education.

The Zambia Police Service (2022) reported 5,301 cases of gender-based violence (GBV)  against children in 2021, representing 25.8% of all GBV cases, though many GBV crimes are  known to go unreported. According to the UNFPA-UNICEF Global  Programme to End Child Marriage (2020), 29% of all Zambian women aged 20–24 were married before they were 18, and 5% they were 1

In 2022, advocates for children’s rights celebrated when Zambia passed its Children’s Code  Act, updating and consolidating the country’s laws in line with international child-rights  standards). The 2014 Violence Against Children in Zambia survey found that among 18- to 24-year-olds, 34% of women and 40% of men had experienced physical violence as children (Republic of Zambia, 2018). Among 13- to 17-year olds, 28% of girls and the same proportion of boys had suffered physical violence in the  previous 12 months.

Among the older group, 20% of women and 10% of men had experienced sexual abuse as children. None of the women had received professional services related to their abuse.

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