Zambia has ratified the following documents:
  • African (Banjul) Charter on Human and People's Rights
  • Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
  • Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
  • International Covenant Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
The following documents further define the obligations of Zambia:
  • Beijing +5: Further Actions and Initiatives to Implement the Beijing Platform for Action
  • Beijing Platform for Action
  • Cairo Programme of Action
  • UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS) Declaration of Commitment
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The documents listed above require Zambia to protect and promote the following rights:

Right to development
Right to education
Right to equal protection of the law
Right to freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment
Right to highest attainable standard of physical and mental health
Right to housing
Right to just and favorable work conditions
Right to liberty and security of the person
Right to life and survival
Right to marry and found a family
Right to non-discrimination on grounds of age
Right to non-discrimination on grounds of disability (i.e. HIV positive)
Right to non-discrimination on grounds of marital status
Right to non-discrimination on grounds of race and ethnicity
Right to non-discrimination on grounds of sex and gender
Right to non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation
Right to private and family life
Right to receive and impart information
Right to the benefits of scientific progress

Constitutional Protection of Rights

The Constitution of Zambia can be viewed at

The Constitution of Zambia is an important tool for the protection and promotion of human rights.

The Constitution enables Zambia to translate international agreements into domestic law, and obliges all branches of government to respect and ensure the rights it enunciates.

The Constitution provides for the protection of the following rights, among others. This empowers individuals in making reproductive health decisions, and helps create the economic and social conditions conducive to good sexual and reproductive health.

Right to freedom of association (art. 11(b), art. 21)
Right to freedom of expression (art. 20)
Right to freedom of movement (art. 11(b), art. 22)
Right to freedom from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (art. 15)
Right to liberty and security ((art. 11(a), art. 13)
Right to life (art. 11(a), art. 12)
Right to non-discrimination on grounds of marital status (art. 23)
Right to non-discrimination on grounds of race (art. 23)
Right to non-discrimination on grounds of sex (art. 23)
Right to own private property (art. 16)
Right to privacy (art. 11(d), art. 17)
Right to receive and impart information (art. 20)
Right to seek and obtain redress in court for violations of rights (art. 28)
Right of the youth to special protection against exploitation (art. 24)

The Constitution includes other provisions that promote and protect rights relevant for good sexual and reproductive health.

The Constitution requires Zambia to specially protect the youth against exploitation (art. 24).

However, the Constitution allows restrictions to rights in certain cases.

The Constitution authorizes discrimination for matters in relation to marriage, divorce, and devolution of property upon death (art. 23(4)(c)).

What does that entail? The Constitution explicitly states that measures adopted in relation to those aspects of private life will not be considered discriminatory. This has direct consequences on the status of married women. Indeed, it means that women's right to equality, although provided for under international law, cannot be enforced if laws are adopted and discriminate against women in all of those matters. For additional information, please click on the link "learn about specific reproductive health and human rights topics."

The Constitution authorizes restrictions to rights in order to protect those of others (art. 11). It also provides that the protection of public health may constitute a grounds for restrictions to:
  • the right to liberty, in order to prevent the spread of infectious or contagious diseases (art. 13(g)), or in the case of a person addicted to drugs (art. 13(h))
  • the right to own private property (art. 17(2)(a))
  • the right to freedom of expression (art. 20(3)(a))
  • the right to freedom of movement (art. 22(3)(a))
What do restrictions entail? By authorizing restrictions, it is acknowledged that Zambia may be confronted with situations that will entail an infringement on rights. In such situations, Zambia may take measures to address a public health problem without violating its own constitution.

Restrictions are authorized under international law if all of the following conditions are met:
  1. the restriction is provided for and carried out in accordance with the law
  2. the restriction is in the interest of a legitimate objective of general interest (e.g., the protection of public health)
  3. the restriction is strictly necessary in a democratic society to achieve the objective
  4. there are no less restrictive means available to reach the same objective
  5. the restriction is not drafted or imposed arbitrarily, i.e. in an unreasonable or otherwise discriminatory manner