Protecting children’s rights is crucial to the survival, health and well-being of Zambia’s new generation.
Violence against children affects boys and girls across the country.
Children experience violence in a wide variety of settings, ranging from home and school, to institutions and the judicial system. Being exposed to different types of violence, be it physical, emotional, sexual or neglect, is painful and can be traumatic. More importantly, such experiences in childhood have a strong association with future violence victimization and perpetration, lower education attainment, health and social problems across a person's life.
Corporal punishment practices are high in Zambia and violence in schools has been widely recognized as a concern. Among young people aged 18-24 years in Zambia, 20 per cent of women and 10 per cent of men reported experiencing sexual violence before they were 18 years of age, while 34 per cent of women and 40 per cent of men reported experiencing physical violence. 6,413 children are living in residential care institutions, highlighting the need for a family-based alternative care system that will allow for children to grow up within a family unit. An estimated 1.3 million children aged 5-14 years are engaged in child labour, reinforcing the inter-generational poverty cycle, which undermines the national economy and impedes progress.
Birth registration is one of the first means of protecting a child's rights, and is compulsory in Zambia, as one of the most powerful instruments in ensuring equity in a broad array of services and interventions. Unfortunately, only 11 per cent of children under the age of 5 are registered with 4 per cent having birth certificates.
Many child marriages in Zambia occur because of poverty, limited access to education, teenage pregnancy, and violence in their homes.
Children are marrying children in an effort to improve their lives and to enhance their status within the community. As a consequence of Zambia’s economic and social circumstances, many children and families are constrained by the lack of viable alternative options to advance in life. Raising awareness on its own will not reduce child marriage; it needs to be accompanied by improving access to quality services and expanding options for future growth and development.
A UNICEF supported nationwide child detention monitoring in 2016 found over 1,000 children, including migrant and circumstantial children, in prisons or police cells. Many of the children in conflict with the law were in detention for minor offences. Their detention can be prolonged, sometimes for years, due to the slow processing of their cases. In the absence of a functioning 'diversion' programme, children in conflict with the law are often incarcerated in correctional institutions and are also frequently housed with the adult population.
Child protection issues in numbers:
- Only 11 per cent of children under the age of 5 have registered births, with 4 per cent having birth certificates
- 11.3 per of children have lost one or both parents
- 31.4 per cent of women aged 20-24 years were married before the age of 18
- 58.9 per cent of girls aged 15-19 years are pregnant or have already delivered a baby
- 20.3 per cent of women and 10 per cent of men aged 20-24 years experienced sexual violence as children