In 2023, Zambia ranked 17th among African countries on the World Bank’s Women Business and the Law index, a notable decline over a half century. The practice of protecting the rights of women is more precarious still, as around ninety percent of land and family disputes are handled by customary courts, which do not recognize advancements in the law as regards women’s rights. The two waves of legal changes that have taken place during the 1970-2023 period to improve women’s rights were the result of ratification of international treaties, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1985 and the African Women’s Rights Protocol in 2006, suggesting that external motivation played a primary role in gender legal reforms in Zambia. Each wave of reform has taken over a decade to permeate into domestic law. The biggest challenge that stands in the way of increasing women’s rights in practice is the divergence between law on the books and customary law.
Financial Markets Group Discussion Papers DP 871