Violence Against Children in Zambia - Study

The findings of Zambia's first ever national study on violence against children

Child holds up hand to cover face
UNICEF Zambia/2018/Siakachoma


The 2014 Zambia Violence against Children Survey (VACS) is the first national survey of violence against children. It is a cross-sectional household survey of 13–24-year-olds, designed to produce national-level estimates of experiences of physical, sexual, and emotional violence in childhood.

A total of 2,770 households for females and 3,324 households for males were selected for the survey. Out of these, 1,819 individuals aged 13–24 years (891 females and 928 males) participated in the study. Overall individual response rates were 86.8 per cent and 85.6 per cent for females and males, respectively.

The survey was designed to include a household questionnaire to be administered to an adult respondent to determine current socioeconomic dynamics of the household and a second, relatively longer questionnaire, for selected primary respondents aged 13–24 years. Results show that violence against children is a problem and is rife in Zambia. The co-occurrence of violence overall and of different types of violence is prominent. Half of females and males experienced at least one type of violence in their childhood.

Female respondents aged 18–24 years were more likely to report experiencing sexual abuse than males in the same age group. Females were also more likely to experience physically forced sex in childhood compared to males. One in three females and two in five males aged 18–24 years experienced physical violence prior to age 18. A quarter of male and female respondents aged 13–17 years experienced physical violence 12 months prior to the survey. Findings from the survey show that one in five females and one in six males aged 18–24, experienced emotional violence.

The most frequent perpetrators of the first incident of sexual abuse prior to age 18 for females and males were spouses, boyfriends/girlfriends, romantic partners and friends. Parents, adult caregivers or other adult relatives were the most frequent perpetrators of physical violence prior to age 18. Sexually active males (aged 19–24) were more likely to have had multiple sexual partners and infrequent condom use in the 12 months preceding the survey, compared to females in the same age group. Nine in ten respondents aged 18–24 who reported having had sexual intercourse knew where to get an HIV test.

Two out of three sexually active males and half of sexually active females aged 13–17 were never tested for HIV. One out of six sexually active females and one in three sexually active males aged 18–24 had never been tested for HIV.

Females and males who had experienced childhood sexual abuse had similar rates of HIV testing to those who had not experienced childhood sexual abuse. The most common reason for not getting tested for HIV, endorsed by one out of three was that individuals felt they did not need the test or were low risk. One in six also indicated that they did not want to know whether they had HIV. Knowledge and utilization of services for victims and survivors of all forms of violence against children are low. Only one in five females and one in four males who experienced childhood sexual abuse knew of a place to go for help; fewer than one in ten male victims of childhood sexual abuse received professional services for any experience of sexual abuse.

Results in this study show that there is a great need to have well-coordinated response strategies, programmes and policies by both Government and all stakeholders to address abuse and violence against children.

Zambia report cover page
Ministry of Youth, Sport and Child Development, UNZA, CSO, UNICEF, CDC
Publication date