By Dickson Jere

Few weeks ago – just before the abduction of 13 girls story broke out – we had an intense debate in class analyzing the gender based violence law in Zambia. In particular, we were looking at the provisions of the Anti-Gender-Based Violence Act No 1 of 2011. It is one of the most comprehensive statutes in Zambia.

You see, to understand any word or words in a statute, you must first go to the “interpretation” clause. That is where you get the answer and not what you think the word means. I know, in ordinary parlance, people always think gender based violence is that man slapping his wife and is taken to Victim Support Unit at the Police. No, read the Act. It is more than that. In fact, the Act has more detailed interpretation of the gender based violence.

Look at section 3 of the Act and the definition of gender based violence. It includes “violence that results in, or likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to the person, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.”
Now, this definition is very thorough.

The law further defines “physical abuse” as “use of physical force against another person, including the forcible confinement or detention of another person and the deprivation of another person of access to adequate food, water, clothing, shelter, rest or subjecting another person to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

From these two definitions picked from the Act, you can now add the dots and see if the use of gender based violence was appropriate in relations to the abducted girls. Were they confined or detained? Physically abused? Sexually or psychologically? Threatened? Denied access to adequate food and water? Clothing?
I, for me one, think the President was right to use the term gender based violence given the wide definition which the statute provide.

By the way, section 2 of this Act has an “application clause” which states that gender based violence shall be tried or dealt with in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Code, Penal Code or any other written law. So even other Penal laws are taken on board under this law.
Very wide!


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