The European Union (EU) is committed to ensuring freedom from sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) around the world and is supporting Zambia to fight this scourge through a €24 million programme which seeks to prevent and support survivors of SGBV in the country, specifically in the Northern and Luapula provinces.
This was said by EU representative, Mr Bruno Hanses, at the opening of a training workshop for Gender Based Violence (GBV) for the Zambia Police Services (ZPS) which coincided with the commemoration of 16 Days of Activism Against GBV in Lusaka, Zambia, on 29 November 2021.
Called “Natwampane” (meaning-coming together), the programme works with the Government of Zambia to strengthen the institutional capacities of all responsible duty bearers working in this sector. It also provides psychosocial counselling to those affected by SGBV and works with local radio stations to raise awareness against this violence.
Mr Hanses said SGBV is best addressed when multiple sectors and organisations work together not only on SGBV response, but also on prevention, and that the police service is a key partner in the work to reduce the violence, particularly the Victim Support Unit (VSU), which works to assist with forensic evidence collection, investigation, and access to justice.
He said sexual violence is also associated with additional stigma, meaning that only a few survivors seek help, and even fewer seek assistance or report to the police. There is a big responsibility therefore, that police proactively ensure adequate and sensitive treatment of SGBV cases, including referral paths to legal support, health care and psycho-social counselling.
Mr Hanses said the police were also an essential partner to ensure access to justice in general. In this area, the EU and Germany have been partners working with all actors in the justice sector to improve the justice delivery. The EU and Germany have supported law enforcement in a number of areas, including the development of a training module for police recruits on the protection of human rights, and hope to continue supporting this work.
The police training workshop on GBV was funded by the EU through the Support to Peace and Security in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Region, a programme aimed to strengthen peace and enhancement of public security in the SADC Region as an essential element for socio-economic development.
Speaking at the same occasion, Ms. Katharina Kammerer, Programme Manager Enabling Access to Justice, Civil Society Participation and Transparency at German development agency, GIZ, said police should be equipped to respond quickly and appropriately to investigate reported incidents of GBV, apprehend perpetrators, and to record the evidence needed to prosecute them in the courts of law.
Ms. Kammerer said the provision of quality care and access to justice of GBV victims and suspects is largely dependent on the quality of investigations undertaken. Therefore, integrating issues of GBV is a core component of a comprehensive, effective and sustainable police sector reform process.
She said the State has primary responsibility for preventing and responding to GBV cases. This includes taking all necessary legislative, administrative, judicial and other measures to prevent, investigate and punish acts of GBV, whether in the home, the workplace, the community, while in custody, or in situations of armed conflict, and provide adequate care, treatment and support to victims/survivors.
Ms. Kammerer said GIZ is providing support to state and non-state actors in the fight against GBV through various programmes, targeted at women and girls as they are the most impacted by GBV and in addition, boys and men, in order to bring about a comprehensive change in social gender norms in the GIZ partner countries.
With the ZPS, GIZ has successfully implemented a number of activities, such as awareness raising campaigns on GBV and the provision of legal aid services for members of the public at police stations. Jointly with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and EU, GIZ has supported the review and development of a Module on GBV for the training of ZPS recruits.
Ms. Kammerer said GBV remains among the most pervasive problems confronting women, children and the elderly across Zambia today and that while gender inequality and discrimination are the root causes of GBV, various other factors such as poverty, lack of education and livelihood opportunities, and impunity for crime and abuse, also tend to contribute to and reinforce a culture of violence and discrimination based on gender.
Speaking on behalf of Mr Lionel Laurens, the UNDP Resident Representative, Mr Gregory Saili, UNDP Assistant Resident Representative and Governance Advisor, said his organisation acknowledges ongoing efforts by the Government of Zambia, through the ZPS, aimed at addressing GBV by prioritising capacity development of its officers.
He said through support from the governments of Sweden and Ireland, the UN and Government of Zambia are implementing a Joint Programme on GBV and working with ZPS to revise various pieces of legislation, guidelines and review and finalisation of curriculum to train police officers on GBV.
This was in addition to strengthening the DNA lab at the ZPS headquarters and at Levi Mwanawasa Teaching Hospital. Mr Saili said UNDP, GIZ, ZPS, and the EU Delegation have come a long way with some key milestones recorded at various levels.
This included collaborative work on supporting ZPS in incorporating GBV modules in the training curriculum to train police officers on GBV; the rollout of the Electronic Occurrence Book for improved case management through donation of ICT equipment to the VSU and training of police officers. As a result, physical violence against women declined by 25%, from 47% in 2007 to 36% in 2018; according to the 2018 Zambia Demographic and Health Survey.
Mr Saili, however, said more needs to be done to get to zero GBV in Zambia, including violence against children, ending adolescent pregnancy and child marriage. The 2018 Zambia Demographic and Health Survey highlights significant concerns related to the status of women and girls in the country, with four in 10 women (36%) having experienced physical violence at least once since age 15. One in 10 women (14%) have experienced sexual violence, 46% of women compared to 26% of men aged 15-49 agree that a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife in certain specified cases.
Mr Saili also pointed out that cyberbullying and violence in the digital space is becoming increasingly rampant, and the online space is no longer safe for anyone, worse still for women and girls. Survivors may suffer fear, depression, and suicidal thoughts, just as they do with other forms of violence.
He said this scourge must stop, and that it will take concerted effort from all, including the three arms of government, traditional and religious leaders, cooperating partners, civil society organisations, networks of men, women, boys and girls and all other stakeholders.