By Lumbiwe Mwanza
People living with disabilities in Zambia continue to face various challenges including discrimination, lack of quality education, and health care among others.
In a social context, Rights for persons with cross-cutting disabilities are violated with few of the cases reported.
According to the Ministry of Health, 47 percent of women in Zambia have experienced Gender-Based Violence and out of the reported cases, 10 percent are sexual GBV. Less than 40 percent of the sexually abused report late and do not have access to health facilities.
In 2018, Zambia recorded 22,073 cases of Gender Based Violence (GBV) countrywide as compared to 2017 where 21,504 cases were documented giving an increase of 569 cases translating to 2.6%.
38 years old Harriet Mwinga living with a disability shared her life story of how she was married off to a man who abused her day and night, “I was married off because of my condition as I could not take care of myself.”
Harriet explains that her family members forced her into marriage because she depended on them for everything.
“They thought it was a better way of ensuring that I have a helper, instead the man abused me emotionally, physically and sexually,” She lamented.
She states that despite the abuse, she could not leave especially that her family members showed no commitment to retrieve her from the abusive marriage and worst still, she conceived.
“When I had a child, the family members of my husband hated me more, they would openly tell me that, I was a burden and if I decided to have a child I should leave,” Harriet said.
Harriet says being a victim of GBV as a person living with disabilities is difficult because mobility is limited especially that if there is no one to take you to the police station or victim support unit centers.
After 6 years of an abusive marriage, Harriet says she managed to seek help from civil society organization providing counseling services to victims of abuse and those whose human rights have been infringed on through defilement or forced marriages.
Luckily, she was retrieved from the abusive marriage and that her 13 years old child is being supported by well-wishers.
She adds that the need to raise awareness on Human Rights for persons living with disability remains key in ensuring that fundamental rights for all citizens are protected.
Meanwhile, Minister in the office of the vice president Silvia Chalikosa has assured that measures to strengthen policies aimed at protecting women especially against abuse have been put in place.
She notes that women in leadership positions have a critical role to play to track, identify and link victims to law enforcement agencies.
“Our role as women in leadership is to eliminate vices like GBV that undermine women’s Humans’ Rights and capacity to contribute to National Development,” Ms. Chalikosa said.
Meanwhile, the Swedish embassy in Zambia Programs Manager Gender and Social Development, Malala Mwondela regrets that Human Rights of women and children especially with cross-cutting disabilities tend to be violated.
She says the concerted effort is needed to address challenges of abuse against the vulnerable or it will be difficult to attain the sustainable development goal number 16 that seeks to promote justice for all.