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Committee on the Rights of the Child examines the report of Zambia

GENEVA (22 January 2016) - The Committee on the Rights of the Child concluded today its consideration of the combined second to fourth periodic report of Zambia on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
 
Presenting the report, Likando Kalaluka, Attorney General of Zambia, said that Zambia was currently undergoing reforms of its Constitution, to align its provisions with the Convention.  Amendments to the Bill of Rights provided comprehensive clauses relating to the promotion and protection of the rights of the child.  While it was reviewing the Children’s Code Bill, the Government had in the meantime enacted legislation and policies reinforcing the right to education, combatting child marriage, strengthening childcare services and prohibiting discrimination and gender-based violence.  Zambia had achieved significant progress in relation to health through additional investments for the installation of modern specialized equipment in hospitals.  Despite those achievements, challenges remained as a result of inadequate financial resources. 
 
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, Committee Experts welcomed the set of reforms initiated by the Government, while requesting information on their finalization and regretting that Zambia had not ratified a number of international human rights instruments.  Experts were extremely concerned about eight being the minimum age for criminal responsibility, and noted the alarmingly high rate of child labour in the country.  They expressed concerns over the general lack of resources allocated to children’s rights, as well as the lack of disaggregated data on child-related issues, which would help the Government to better focus its efforts.  They welcomed the prohibition of child marriage in law, but noted its lack of implementation in practice.  Concerns were raised about the absence of prohibition of corporal punishment by family members or legal guardians.  A number of questions were raised about the high number of unregistered children in the country, particularly in local areas and among children in refugee camps, and about efforts made to combat HIV/ AIDS in the country. 
 
In concluding remarks, Jose Angel Rodriguez Reyes, Member of the Committee and Rapporteur for Zambia, said that challenges remained in the implementation of the legislative framework and the collection of data and statistics on the situation of children on the ground. 
 
Gehad Madi, Member of the Committee and Rapporteur for Zambia, welcomed reforms undertaken by Zambia and encouraged further efforts for their implementation. 
 
Mr. Kalaluka, in his concluding remarks, welcomed the Committee’s support and said its recommendations would be given due consideration.  
 
The delegation of Zambia included representatives of the Ministry of Justice; the Ministry of Sport, Youth and Child Development; the Ministry of Community Development and Social Welfare; and the National Prosecution Authority. 
 
The Committee will next meet in public on Wednesday, 27 January at 10 a.m., when it will hold an informal meeting with State parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 
 
Report
 
The combined second to fourth periodic report of Zambia can be read here: CRC/C/ZMB/2-4.
 
Presentation of the Report
 
LIKANDO KALALUKA, Attorney General of Zambia, expressed his Government’s commitment to the rights of the child, which had resulted in the adoption of a number of legislative and administrative measures to ensure the protection of those rights.  Zambia was currently undergoing constitutional reforms, to be finalized in August 2016, aligning the definition of the child with the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Amendments to the Bill of Rights provided comprehensive clauses relating to the promotion and protection of the rights of the child.  The Government had enacted the Education Act of 2011, which reinforced the right to education at early childhood, basic and high school levels, and which also provided the right to free and compulsory basic education.  That Act also made it an offense to marry off school-going children and prohibited discrimination.  Also adopted in 2011, the Anti Gender-Based Violence Act provided for the establishment of shelters for victims of such violence, including children.  In 2012, the adoption of the Persons with Disabilities Act had domesticated the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, and criminalized the failure by parents to take children with disabilities to school. 
 
The Government of Zambia was currently reviewing the Children’s Code Bill, which consolidated the laws providing for the rights and welfare of children and would harmonize the definition of a child.  The National Child Policy launched in 2015 provided guidance and the institutional framework through which all child-related programmes in the country were implemented.  Minimum standards for childcare facilities ensured that children who were not in a family environment were protected and cared for in accordance with international standards.  Zambia recognized that institutional care was a measure of last resort and had therefore enhanced alternative measures such as foster care, adoption and reintegration.  Guidelines on such alternative care were also being finalized.  Zambia had achieved significant progress in relation to health, with the infant mortality rate declining, and through additional investments for the installation of modern specialized equipment in hospitals.  Improvements had also been made to increase access to early childhood education, while fees in primary and secondary schools would be reduced in 2016. 
 
Besides containing information on measures undertaken by the Government, the head of the Zambian delegation informed the Committee that the report presented before it included the views of children from various parts of the country.  Despite its achievements, the Government faced many challenges in protecting children and ensuring their welfare.  The most prominent challenge was inadequate financial resources, which resulted in programmes being neglected.  The Government nevertheless continued to consider children a top priority. 
 
Questions by the Experts
 
GEHAD MADI, Member of the Committee and Rapporteur for Zambia, welcomed the inclusion of children’s views in the State party’s report, and asked whether non-governmental organizations had been consulted as well.  He regretted that the replies to the list of issues had been provided to the Committee only minutes before today’s meeting, with a three-month delay.  He welcomed that the constitutional reform would bring the definition of the child in line with the Convention, and asked what other constitutional provisions pertained to the rights of the child.  He was seriously concerned that Zambia had not ratified any of the three Optional Protocols to the Convention, nor had it ratified other important international human rights instruments.  He noted with regret the absence of a body for the coordination of the implementation of child-related policies, despite previous recommendations by the Committee.  Budget allocations to childhood issues seemed insufficient, he noted.  Moving to independent monitoring, he regretted that the Commissioner for Children had not yet been appointed, and that the Commissioner’s Office was not sufficiently funded or staffed.  He pointed at the systematic lack of data collection regarding gender, age, and other issues affecting children.  Similarly, the Government was not doing enough to disseminate the Convention, including through its translation into local languages or its inclusion into school curricula. 
 
Despite reports of negative impacts of the activities of mining industries on children’s rights and the environment, the Government did not seem to have adopted a regulatory framework for the activities of the private sector.  He welcomed that the constitutional reform would bring the definition of the child in line with the provisions of the Convention, and expected that national laws would be standardized after its adoption.  He highly welcomed that the minimum age of marriage by law was 21.  That legislation seemed however not to have been implemented in practice, as reports of children being married below the age of 18 had emerged.  He underscored the need for more consolidated efforts to address violence against children, and asked whether studies on domestic violence, ill-treatment and abuse had been conducted.  He asked about measures taken to ensure the protection and rehabilitation of victims of violence against children.  He reiterated the Committee’s concern that corporal punishment continued in practice, and was not prohibited in the family setting. 
 
JOSE ANGEL RODRIGUEZ REYES, Member of the Committee and Rapporteur for Zambia, welcomed major progress made by Zambia in relation to the protection of children.  He noted progressive legal provisions to combat discrimination, and welcomed the prioritization of support to vulnerable group within the fifth National Plan.  He asked whether vulnerable children, including children with disabilities and children born out of wedlock, had equal access to services.  He also asked whether children from minorities had access to State benefits.  Was any study undertaken to understand any pattern of discrimination in Zambia?  He then noted that discrimination on the ground of age was not explicitly prohibited in the legislation.   Was non-discrimination taught at school?  Were measures taken to ensure that Muslim children had access to legal documents respecting their cultural identity?  He then noted some negative stereotypes regarding the family setting and the division of tasks, and asked what measures had been taken to address those. 
 
Continuing, he asked whether the principle of the best interest of the child was enshrined in any law in Zambia, and whether that principle was known and applied in rural areas in the country.  Were professionals trained on how to implement that principle?  Were religious or community leaders reluctant with regard to implementing that principle, or with regard the implementation of the Convention in general?  Was the principle of the best interest of the child taken into account when designing the State’s budget?  Moving on to children’s opinion, he asked whether children could ask to be heard in court decisions that affected them or in the family setting.  Could they voice opinions on sexual and reproductive health, or marriage matters?  On the right to life, he asked what key social programmes were applied to address the problem of 60.5 per cent of the population living below the poverty line.  Moving to birth registration, he welcomed the creation of registration desks in hospitals, which allowed for birth registration to take place immediately after birth.  He asked whether those desks were in place in all hospitals in the country.  He also inquired about statistics pertaining to birth registration, and asked whether refugee children and children born in refugee camps had a possibility to be registered.  The Rapporteur then asked whether freedom of religion was taught at school, and whether children in schools were permitted to abstain from participating in activities focusing on one religion rather than another.  Finally, he raised questions regarding the protection of children’s right to privacy and the publication of private information in the media.             
 
An Expert echoed the Rapporteur’s concerns regarding the Commissioner for Children not being appointed within the Human Rights Commission, and requested information on individual complaints filed by children to its Office or to the Human Rights Commission in general. 
 
Concerning birth certificates, an Expert asked whether registration free of charge would be considered, and inquired about measures taken to facilitate access to birth certificates in rural areas.  She expressed concerns that children born to illegal immigrants were not entitled to birth registration.  What was being done to ensure that children born in homes had access to birth registration?  She asked how registration was conducted in practice, and what budget was specifically allocated to birth and death registration. 
Response from the Delegation
 
The Bill of Rights could only be amended through a referendum, the delegation said.  Such a referendum would be arranged in October 2016, and would bring the Bill of Rights in line with the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The challenge would be to ensure the requirement that 50 per cent of the people registered to vote would participate.  
 
In terms of ratification of the three Optional Protocols, Zambia faced challenges in ensuring its national legislation was brought in line with those instruments prior to ratifying them. 
 
The National Child Council would have the authority to coordinate the Government’s efforts for the implementation of the Children’s Code.  Once the Children’s Code Bill would be adopted, the Council would have precedence over all other ministries on children’s issues. 
 
The Children’s Code would compile all legislation relating to children.  The Bill creating it          was already in place, but its enactment had been delayed until the constitutional reform was finalized in order to ensure that the implementation of the Code had a constitutional basis.  The Children’s Code Bill would therefore be adopted after the referendum on the Bill of Rights was carried out.  
 
A new National Plan of Action was currently being drafted.  It would promote a multi-sectoral approach for children-related issues.  
 
There had been a substantial increment of budget allocations to the health and education sectors.   
 
The Government had developed a database with information on offenses and children in need.  That database had been launched in late 2015. 
 
The appointment of a Commissioner for Children had not been finalized.  The Commissioner had been chosen, but the appointment had to be validated by Parliament. 
 
A good number of non-governmental organizations had participated in the elaboration of the periodic report submitted by Zambia. 
 
The law in Zambia, including case law, provided that the best interest of the child ran paramount during court proceedings.  Cases not taking that principle into account could be overrun by appeal courts.  The principle of the best interest of the child would be enshrined in article 61 of the draft Bill of Rights.  The Government would pursue efforts to sensitize law enforcement officials to the implementation of that principle. 
 
Customary laws allowing for child marriage were invalidated, a delegate said.  Challenges remained with regard to the implementation of the prohibition of child marriage in rural areas. 
 
Zambia was concerned about the negative impact of mining activities, and had enacted a law in 2015 that sought to ensure that mining companies did not impact the wellbeing of children and the population.  The Government was committed to address the matter, and would take recommendations made in that regard by non-governmental organizations into due consideration. 
 
Measures had been taken to address negative gender stereotypes, including in schools. 
 
A number of reported cases of violence against children often did not go through to courts.  One explanation was that such cases often took place within families, and victims were often not willing to speak out against their abuser in court, making it difficult for prosecutors to make a case.  The procurement of DNA evidence now allowed for more cases to be prosecuted. 
 
Birth registration services, including the issuance of birth certificates, had been decentralized within local health centres, a delegate said, leading to better coverage of rural areas.  Mobile registration units went to all rural areas, including refugee camps, to register all children born there.  More still needed to be done to ensure universal birth registration.  It was difficult to ensure the registration of children after age 5.  Children under 5 had to provide birth certificates to enrol school. 
 
Legislation prohibited the broadcast of private content by the media.        
 
Corporal punishment was outlawed in all settings, including in schools.  Awareness raising programmes had been conducted to prevent corporal punishment by caregivers and in the family setting. 
 
The Convention on the Rights of the Child had been translated into the seven official languages of the country.  Campaigns had been organized in cooperation with the United Nations Children’s Fund to disseminate the Convention, including on television.  Children’s Rights Clubs were established, and contributed to such dissemination. 
 
Follow-up Questions by an Expert
 
GEHAD MADI, Member of the Committee and Rapporteur for Zambia, welcomed awareness-raising efforts undertaken by the Government to prevent corporal punishment, but remained concerned that loopholes in the legislation authorized “lawful punishment” by parents or legal guardians. 
 
Response from the Delegation
 
A delegate said that some means of punishment were authorized as long as they did not constitute ill-treatment or physical abuse.  
 
Questions by the Experts
 
Turning to the second round of questions, JOSE ANGEL RODRIGUEZ REYES, Member of the Committee and Rapporteur for Zambia, addressing family issues, noted that 20,000 households in Zambia were led by a child, and asked what support was provided to those children.  He asked what was being done to provide support to children separated from their parents, including street children, children living within foster families and children within care centres.  Were those centres inspected?  Were foster families controlled to ensure that children were not exploited?  He then asked whether mechanisms were in place to ensure the transparency of the adoption process. 
 
Moving on to another issue, the Rapporteur asked whether disaggregated data had been collected regarding children with disabilities, and required information regarding the number of persons with disabilities in the country.  He noted the adoption of an Action Plan to deal with those persons, and asked about its implementation.  Were mechanisms in place to ensure accessibility in public places and ensure non-discrimination?  The Expert then asked whether schools were properly equipped throughout the country to deal with children with disabilities. 
 
The Rapporteur asked what percentage of the State budget was allocated to health services.  He expressed concerns with regard to neo-natal mortality, and with regard to the 40 per cent mortality rate for children under five.   What policies were being applied to improve child malnutrition?  What was being done to raise awareness on sexual health and to ensure access to contraceptives.  Was safe and medical termination of pregnancy legal? What efforts were being made to prevent HIV transmission? 
 
GEHAD MADI, Member of the Committee and Rapporteur for Zambia, welcomed the adoption of the Education Act, which made education free and compulsory.  He regretted the low number of primary schools providing early-childhood education.  Quality education also remained low despite efforts made to combat illiteracy.  There was also a high drop-out rate at the secondary education level, particularly among girls in rural areas.  Was human rights education included in school curricula?  The Rapporteur regretted that access to leisure activities was lacking in schools and public places.  
 
The draft Refugee Bill pertained restrictions on refugees’  freedom of movement and right to work, he noted, recommending a comprehensive review of that draft with a view to ensure that the needs of child refugees were properly addressed.  Further, he encouraged Zambia to withdraw its reservations to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, and to ratify the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. 
 
On juvenile justice, the Rapporteur was extremely concerned that eight was the minimum age for criminal responsibility.  He then encouraged further training activities for judges in charge of juvenile justice.  What services were provided to children in detention with their mother, including in terms of health, education and leisure? 
 
Child labour was alarmingly high, he underscored. 
 
Finally, he raised the case of Zambian singer Clifford Dimba, who was convicted in 2014 for the rape of a 14-year-old girl and sentenced to 18 years in prison.  Mr. Dimba was pardoned by the President after serving one year of his sentence and subsequently appointed as an ambassador in the fight against gender violence in Zambia.  That appointment had been annulled since, the Rapporteur noted.  What had the public reaction in Zambia been around that case? 
 
Response from the Delegation
 
No measures had been taken to restrict refugees’ access to health or education facilities.  It was unlikely that refugee children without birth certificates would be denied access to health or education services.  If the parents were illegal immigrants, they would most likely avoid putting their children into school in order not to be detected.  Birth certificates were issued when there was sufficient evidence that a child was born in Zambia. 
 
Human rights education was included in school curricula, including issues pertaining to non-discrimination.  Young people were encouraged to participate in forums where they could freely express their views. 
 
Discrimination on the grounds of age or disability was not formally prohibited in the Constitution, a delegate said.  The prohibition of discrimination on those grounds was nonetheless ensured by courts.  Children were free to practice their religion in Zambia.  Freedom of religion was protected under the Constitution. 
 
On the case of singer Clifford Dimba, the pardon given by the President was in full compliance with the Constitution.  That decision was made on a rational basis and based on merits as to the remorse expressed by the convicted person, including through his songs promoting the rights of children and gender equality.
 
Zambia had acceded to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption the year before, and ensured the protection of the best interest of the child in all cases of adoption.  
 
The National Child Policy and the National Social Protection Policy guided all national programmes related to children, and covered the issue of street children
 
Care institutions were not Government-run, a delegate said.  They were however monitored and inspected by juvenile justice inspectors.  The only Government-run institutions concerned juvenile offenders.  There were three in the country. 
 
The Government was committed to combat child labour as it violated children’s rights.  It had adopted strong legal standards to eliminate that phenomenon, in accordance with international standards, including the International Labour Organization’s Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour.  Efforts needed to continue as regard to awareness-raising and capacity building, as well as poverty eradication.  Education was also at the centre of the Government’s efforts, with measures taken to bring working children back to school.  
 
Follow-up Questions by an Expert
 
GEHAD MADI, Member of the Committee and Rapporteur for Zambia, said that one third of the children of Gambia were involved in child labour, and underlined the importance of inspections being carried out by the Government.  He asked whether prosecutions had been conducted against those involved in cases of child labour. 
 
Response from the Delegation
 
The Ministry of Labour was charged with inspecting violations of children’s rights in relation to labour.  Out of 2,400 cases of child labour reported in 2014, 1,500 had been prosecuted. 
 
The Government had set up assistance centres for victims of sexual violence, which provided medical and psychological support.  Officers also provided legal counsel to the victims, while measures were taken to maintain victims isolated from their offender.  Children at risk could be placed in shelters for their safety.  Those centres were supported by civil society organizations’ empowerment programmes targeting victims of violence. 
 
The Termination of Pregnancy Act guided legal ways to undertake abortion in Zambia.  Awareness-raising campaigns were being carried out on the use of contraceptives and the prevention of drug abuse. 
 
On juvenile justice, a delegate said that the Government was in the process of building additional holding cells for children in detention to be held separately from adults.  The Child Justice Forum would come up with guidelines regarding the detention of children.  Judges used their own discretion to set the price and conditions for bail.  Currently, a child was criminally responsible at the age of eight.  However, the Children Court Bill, once adopted, would increase that age up to 14.  It was true that the Legal Aid Board had faced challenges due to the lack of funds, but its decentralized organization made it accessible to populations in remote areas.  Roundtables were hosted by courts in cases involving juvenile offenders.  Those roundtables included representatives of the judiciary, social services and detention facilities, and made decisions as to the necessity to pursue the prosecution of the juvenile offender.   There were three correctional facilities for juvenile offenders in the country (one for girls and two for boys). 
 
Follow-up Questions by the Experts
 
Experts raised follow-up questions pertaining to school fees being required in practice despite the legislation recognizing the right to free primary education
 
An Expert requested information about healthcare in rural areas, and about measures taken to lower the rate of HIV transmissions.  Another Expert asked whether there were mental health centres for adolescents. 
 
Was there any plan to prevent early pregnancies?
 
GEHAD MADI, Member of the Committee and Rapporteur for Zambia, noted with concern the increased number of child victims of trafficking for economic exploitation, and regretted the lack of data provided by the State party on that issue. 
 
A Committee Member regretted that there seemed to be no specific strategy to address the issue of street children
 
Going back to the case of singer Clifford Dimba, an Expert asked what had become of the girl victim today.  Was she provided with services and protection?  Had she received a lot of media attention?  Had she received reparations? 
 
Response from the Delegation
 
A delegate underlined that primary education was free.  Fees for secondary education had been reduced to encourage enrolment.  Programmes encouraged sports and other recreational activities in schools.  The Government regarded leisure as an integral component of human development.  The newly approved National Childhood Policy had enshrined the need to promote such activities for children.  To address the high rates of drop-out among girls, the Government was carrying out sensitization on the importance of girls going to school.  Additional school facilities had also been created in rural areas. 
 
A study by the Ministry of Gender and Social Development measured the prevalence of sexual, physical and emotional violence against children, and sought to better help the Government setting up appropriate measures to address that issue. 
 
The Government had undertaken programmes to combat gender stereotypes affecting girls. 
 
Zambia was focusing on the prevention and treatment of HIV/ AIDS.  The prevalence rate had decreased.  Intensive awareness-raising activities had always been carried out in the media and schools.  Those efforts focused on the need for young people to abstain undergoing sexual intercourse and on the use of protection means.  Efforts also aimed at preventing mother-to-child transmission.  Efforts to reduce poverty had also led to improvements relating to HIV transmission.  Distances to health centres remained a challenge in rural areas. 
 
The Persons with Disabilities Act (2012) domesticated the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and provided for the protection of children with disabilities.  The Education Act prohibited discrimination against children, including children with disabilities.  It criminalized failure to enrol children with disabilities in schools.  The Government was in the process of adopting a Plan of Action focusing on the implementation of the Persons with Disabilities Act. 
 
The Prisons Act did not recognize the presence of babies or children with their mothers in detention facilities.  Support to mothers and children in that situation had however been provided, including with regard to access to food.  Some non-governmental organizations were very active in providing support to those mothers. 
 
A study to measure the phenomenon of street children had been carried out.  The Government was committed to implement a multi-sectoral strategy to prevent that phenomenon and to support families and care centres. 
 
Regarding the case of singer Clifford Dimba, a delegate said that the victim had remained anonymous and her name had been hidden in order to ensure her protection. 
 
Concluding Remarks
 
JOSE ANGEL RODRIGUEZ REYES, Member of the Committee and Rapporteur for Zambia, welcomed the fruitful dialogue held today.  He said Zambia’s challenges focused on the implementation of the legislative framework and the collection of data and statistics on the situation of children on the ground. 
 
GEHAD MADI, Member of the Committee and Rapporteur for Zambia, welcomed reforms undertaken by Zambia and encouraged further efforts for their implementation. 
 
LIKANDO KALALUKA, Attorney General of Zambia, welcomed the Committee’s support and said its recommendations would be given due consideration. 
 
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