THE Zambia Law Development Commission (ZLDC) says the proposal to repeal the offence of bigamy, is not in any way aimed at encouraging immorality, but simply to avoid duplication of the law which is provided for in both the Penal Code as well as the Marriage Act.
And ZLDC Director Hope Chanda says the commission did not make any recommendations on abortion, arguing that the country already has a law on that subject which is clear.
Meanwhile, ZLDC Research Coordinator Mwiba Mwenda says all law review processes that are conducted by the Commission are consultative in nature.
On February 15, 2022, the Zambia Law Development Commission (ZLDC) and the Technical Committee on the review of the Penal Code Act, Chapter 87 of the Laws of Zambia and the Criminal Procedure Code Act, Chapter 88 of the Laws of Zambia handed over the Project Report and the two Draft Bills recommending the repeal and replacement of the Penal Code Act and the Criminal Procedure Code Act.
In the report, the commission recommended the repealing of the offence of bigamy from the penal code.
“Stakeholders submitted that there was need to repeal the offence of bigamy, as it is a colonial legacy. Zambian customary law allows a man to marry more than one wife, and therefore, this should extend to statutory law,” read part of the Review of the Penal Code Act and Criminal Procedure Code Act on Bigamy.
However, this has caused public outcry among various stakeholders including the Church.
But speaking when she featured on ZED TV Zambia breakfast show, Monday, Chanda said the proposal to repeal the offence of bigamy was not in any way aimed at encouraging immorality, but simply to avoid duplication of the law in two acts.
“The fact that we have bigamy sitting in the Penal Code and in the Marriage Act, our recommendation is that it should be removed and it should not be duplicated. We have not changed the law on marriage, we are not encouraging immorality. In some of the things that are trending, we have been accused of introducing polygamy into the Zambian system. Which we have not. ‘We are killing the family with our recommendation’ but this is a state that is already sitting on the statute book,” she said.
Chanda added that the commission did not make any recommendations on abortion.
“It is actually interesting that we have a discussion around the question and issue of abortion. As a commission actually, we did not make any recommendations on abortion. So even we had to go back to our report, we also thought that we also missed it. If you look at our report, one of the things we do in each of our reports is [that] all the recommendations that we receive from stakeholders, whether they are finally adopted in our final recommendations or not, we reflect them in the report. So we would get various recommendations from stakeholders, and some of them are not taken on board, we reflect them, also to give the Ministry of Justice when it is finalising the drafting of a particular bill, an opportunity to see the thinking and discussions that went into a particular process. And also for the stakeholders, we reflect them. And in all our reports there will be a rationale or reason given for why a recommendation made is given or a recommendation is not,” she said.
“And on the question of abortion, one of the primary pieces of legislation we look at in any review process for us is the Constitution. And our Constitution in Article 8 has got national values and principles. And among those, we have got morality and ethics. We have democracy and Constitutionalism. And we are required when enacting or interpreting any piece of legislation that we apply those national values and principles. And we do have a law on abortion that is clear. But in the general discussions that come up on review processes like these and on questions and issues of abortion, yes you will have a divide like we have in the debate now on whether or not women should be allowed to abort. So the law on abortion is there and it is clear.”
And speaking on the same programme, ZLDC Research Coordinator Mwiba Mwenda said the commission consulted the Law Association of Zambia, civil society organisations, the Judiciary, among others, when undertaking the project.
“All law review processes that are conducted by the Zambia Law Development Commission are consultative in nature. There is no single project report and recommendation that have been made by the commission without consulting various interest groups and the people themselves. As a commission, we are under a mandatory requirement by our own law which is the Zambia Law Development Commission Act which requires us to conduct broad stakeholder consultations on all law review processes. And this particular law review process which focused on reviewing the penal code act and the criminal procedure code act was not an exception. This is a project that started long time ago and stakeholders have been consulted from time to time until the end of the project,” he said.
“Among the stakeholders who were consulted included; the Law Association of Zambia, civil society organisations, the Judiciary and many others. So guaranteed members of the public were consulted at different stages. And we did not only end at consulting them, even after coming up with our draft bills and the project report, we again went back to the stakeholders for us to give them a second chance to check what was contained in the report and draft bills. So that they can advise us on whether or not we captured what they recommended rightly. That was done through a validation process. By the time we were validating the project report and draft bills, stakeholders were well aware of the contents of the process outputs.”
Mwenda said the instruction to review the Penal Code act and the Criminal Procedure Code act came from the Ministry of Justice through the Minister, Mulambo Haimbe
“The instruction to review the penal code act and the criminal procedure code act came from the Ministry of Justice through the Minister. What members of the public should know is that as the commission, we can receive instructions or recommendations from the Ministry of Justice, from any line ministry or from any institution or individual. The Minister of Justice wanted the commission to comprehensively review the two pieces of legislation so that they speak to modern day Zambia in terms of the political and social values. To remove issues of duplicity, to address other things which are not sitting well,” said Mwenda.