The Republic of Zambia, a landlocked state in south central Africa has a population of 13.8 million people. Zambia has a reputation for political stability and a relatively efficient, transparent government (marred by President Chiluba’s extensive corrupt tenure). It is Africa’s biggest copper producer and subject to the volatility of the mineral’s price. It has strong links with China.

 
Severe Discrimination
Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory

Constitution and government

Zambia is officially a Christian state, according to the 1996 constitution. There are constitutional provisions to protect freedom of religion or belief  (as well as freedom of expression and assembly). The government’s commitment to these general principles may not be as firm as the constitution suggests.

According to the 2000 census, 87 percent of the population is Christian, 1 percent is Muslim or Hindu, and 7 percent adhere to other belief systems, including indigenous religions. Many people practice a mix of Christianity and traditional beliefs. 5% of the population may be assumed to have no religious faith. There are no known atheist or humanist groups in Zambia.

A draft new constitution circulated during 2013, but not enacted (due to the then President Sata’s death) singled out “anti-Christian” views as not protected by the general principles of free expression. These draft proposals  appear to have  been motivated by differences between churches (and Sata’s clear preference for the Roman Catholic church), differences which the then Zambian president thought it appropriate that the state might resolve.

President Sata has been succeeded by a prominent minister in Sata’s government, Edgar Lungu. At the time of writing there is no indication that there will be a renewed constitutional discussion about “anti-Christian” views. However, the new president’s affiliation may be clear from the following reference to an October 2015 foreign news report:

“Sunday saw a nationwide day of prayer in Zambia as president Edgar Lungu called for a divine intervention to save the African country’s currency, Kwacha, from a record drop.”
<rt.com/news/319018-zambia-national-prayer-currency/>

Education and children’s rights

The majority of Zambian pupils attend government schools, which are nominally free for Grades 1-7, although parents may have to pay ‘contributions’ or buy uniforms from the school. With the exception of a few top private schools, Zambian schools are chronically under-resourced and educational standards extremely low.

The current constitution declares:

“2)  Except with his own consent, or, if he is a minor, the consent of his guardian,

person attending any place of education shall be required to receive religious

instruction…”

In practice, according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom Report for Zambia, “the government requires Christian instruction in public schools. Religious education in both the Catholic and Protestant traditions is mandatory for all students through grade seven. From grade eight to grade twelve, religious education is offered as an optional subject in government-run schools. Islamic or other forms of religious education are not available in public schools but are offered in some private schools.”

The use of children in the most dangerous forms of labour, such as mining and agriculture, is a problem in Zambia.
<206.155.102.64/country,,,,ZMB,,55506fa524,0.html>

Family, community and society

There is no evidence of secularists being the subject of discrimination on account of non-belief, but secularists who promote other-than-orthodox Christian teaching on family and relationship issues can find themselves the victim of both government and churches strong responses (see below).

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

The Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and the press, but as of 2013, the government often restricted these rights in practice. Although the late President Sata had pledged to free the public media from government control, these outlets have continued to make pro-government reports in general, and journalists have censored themselves. All the major print and broadcast outlets now favour the ruling party. The government has the authority to appoint the management boards of ZNBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), grants and revokes licenses of broadcasters. Sata had revoked the nationwide licenses of the privately owned Radio Phoenix and Q-FM because they had aired opposition statements.

In 2013, the government harassed and intimidated independent journalists. It had targeted the highly critical Zambian Watchdog and it eventually became inaccessible via the internet in Zambia and, for a period, outside the country as well, although it could be accessed on mobile phones using circumvention tools, and via Facebook and Twitter. Another critical website, Zambia Reports, had also been blocked at times.
<freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2014/zambia-0#.VIQD1DHF9qJ>

In February 2014, a Lusaka court acquitted human rights activist Paul Kasonkomona. He had been charged in April 2013 with “soliciting for immoral purposes” after he urged the government to recognize the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people as part of a comprehensive fight against HIV/AIDS during a television debate. The court ruled that the state had failed to prove its case. The government indicated its intention to appeal against the ruling.
<206.155.102.64/publisher,AMNESTY,ANNUALREPORT,ZMB,54f07d75e,0.html>

In July 2015, the decision by President Edgar Lungu to commute the sentences of 332 prisoners awaiting death by hanging to life imprisonment was welcomed by Amnesty International and others, as “a laudable first step….to abolishing the death penalty completely”.
<refworld.org/country,,AMNESTY,,ZMB,,55ae01464,0.html>