Zambia Launches Second Fast Track Court to Expedite Gender Based Violence Cases

Mar 11, 2016

Chief Justice Ms. Irene Mambilima unveils the fast track court on GBV in Lusaka. Photo: Moses Zangar, Jr./UNDP in Zambia

The Zambian government has launched the second user friendly fast track court to specifically expedite Gender Based Violence (GBV) cases.

The establishment of the victim-friendly courts for survivors of GBV has branded Zambia as a pioneering nation in the fight against the scourge in the Southern Africa region.

The scheme is the result of a partnership between the Government of Zambia and the UN Joint Team on Gender Based Violence comprising participating UN agencies with UNDP as the lead agency with financial support from the governments of Sweden, Ireland and the UK.

On 22nd January 2016, the first fast track court on GBV was launched in Kabwe in the Central Province. The court is already showing results in reducing the backlog of cases. It is expected that subsequent courts will be launched in other provinces to tackle an upsurge in GBV cases and sexual crime across the country.

The fast track courts are aimed at increasing access to justice for victims and alleged perpetrators alike by dealing with cases speedily.  They will also help reduce the time alleged perpetrators are detained before their cases are heard. 

The two fast-track courts are equipped to be user and child friendly with improved technology to make processing of documents quicker. They are fitted with equipment which allows protection for victims from intimidation and from facing their alleged perpetrators. The courts are also designed to ensure an accused person receives a fair trial.

More than 30 magistrates, prosecutors and investigators underwent training prior to the launch of the two fast track courts.

According to statistics from the Victim Support Unit (VSU) of the Zambia Police Service, there were 18,088 cases of Gender Based Violence reported country wide in 2015. In 2014 there were 15,153 cases, amounting to an increase of 16.2 percent in the number of cases reported between 2014 and 2015. A total of 2,759 cases of defilement were reported country-wide, out of which 2,752 girls and 7 boys.

The figures show that in Zambia, the people who experience physical, sexual and psychological violence are mainly women and girls.

Officiating at the launch in Lusaka on Friday, Chief Justice Ms. Irene Mambilima said the fast track court would mitigate challenges and injustices experienced by victims of GBV.

“Gender Based Violence cannot be fought only by using the court process alone. The vice is multi-faceted and therefore requires a multi-sectoral approach,” Chief Justice Mambilima said, imploring the Ministry of Gender and civil society organisations to undertake social change programs and awareness-raising campaigns to publicise the protection and remedies available under the Anti-GBV Act.

Also speaking at the launch, the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Janet Rogan said the opening of these fast track courts for Gender Based Violence cases is a real sign of Zambia's commitment on gender and justice issues. “The fast track system should also ensure equal access to justice by helping women and girls who often have fewer resources to protect them,” she said.

“The pervasive culture of violence erodes the fundamental rights to life, health, security, bodily integrity, political participation, food, work and shelter of thousands and thousands of people in Zambia who happen to be women and girls. Yet every person - female as well as male - living in Zambia deserves to live a life free from violence whether in schools, the workplace, out doing business and especially in their own homes,” Rogan said.

With support of the United Nations, the Government of Zambia has made significant progress to addressing Gender-Based Violence in the country. The enactment of Anti-GBV Act and the development of the GBV policy for the health sector and Rules of Court as well as the revision of the Penal Code are key achievements in the policy and legal reform to reduce GBV.

The Anti-Gender-Based Violence Act of 2011 is viewed as a major step forward in the fight against GBV in Zambia and it is one of the most comprehensive laws on GBV in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. The Act gives hope to many women and children who have been subjected to GBV without adequate recourse.

It also offers a comprehensive framework for protection and means of survival for victims and survivors of GBV as well as prosecution of perpetrators. Despite the progress, cases of GBV have been on the rise in Zambia.

To help address the issue, the UN in Zambia, as a “Delivering as One” country through its Joint Programme on GBV, is delivering support to the government by increasing GBV survivors’ access to timely and appropriate health services. The programme also delivers efficient justice delivery systems, protection and support services including economic empowerment. The Joint Programme supports government also at improving national and sub national coordination of an effective, evidence-based and multi sectoral response to GBV.

Since the launch of the Joint Programme in 2012, more than 2,000 GBV survivors and vulnerable people have been trained in livelihood skills, with some also receiving access to start-up capital. The anti-GBV Act has been translated into seven local languages with a view to increase dissemination country wide.