Zambia’s crackdown on sex dolls provokes fierce rights debate

No one sells them openly, no one admits to owning one, and no one has been arrested— but Zambia is waging a fierce campaign against sex dolls.

The government launched the crackdown on the sex toys last month, threatening offenders with heavy jail terms over the dolls which, it says, are “very unnatural”.

The action has propelled the issue of sex dolls to the top of the news agenda and made them a hot topic of conversation and debate on social media, dividing opinion in the largely conservative southern African country.

“Being a Christian nation, obviously we are anchored in Christian principles and one of the values is morality and ethics,” Minister of National Guidance and Religious Affairs Godfridah Sumaili told AFP.

Selling or using a sex doll is against Zambian law, she said, vowing to ensure they are not bought on the internet and imported.


“The use of sex dolls is definitely in contradiction to our natural heritage and our principles,” Sumaili added.

“The law actually forbids anybody to trade (in) and to use such objects— and so this is why we are saying for Zambians that this is a very unnatural thing.”

‘A lifeless object’

The minister said the ban was necessary after media reports emerged of sex dolls being imported into Zambia, apparently from Asia. Police are investigating, she added.

In recent months, Zambia’s independent and semi-official press have devoted many column inches to reports of sex shops popping up around the capital Lusaka selling sex dolls, as well as chronicling the backlash.

“God created man and woman for sexual satisfaction— but for a man or woman to use a lifeless object is immoral,” Sumaili said.

“Let’s not import foreign beliefs and experiences. Let us just believe in what we are.”

‘Help combat AIDS’

The manufacture of sex dolls has become increasingly sophisticated, with China developing custom-made “smart” dolls that can talk, play music and turn on dishwashers.

Sex dolls’ inventors say they can cure loneliness and help elderly men who lack female companionship.

In Zambia, the dolls made of silicone were reportedly in a variety of shapes and shades, but an AFP reporter failed to find any shops selling them.

The Patriots for Economic Progress (PEP)― a fringe liberal party in Zambia— claims the government’s attitude to sex dolls reflects its increasingly authoritarian tendencies under President Edgar Lungu.

“The argument that the Bible does not allow the use of any objects is wrong,” said PEP party chief Sean Tembo.

“The same Bible encourages free will and it will be wrong to send someone to prison for choosing to use sex dolls. Some men have low self-esteem and cannot propose love.”

Tembo said sex dolls could even tackle the spread of HIV/AIDS— in a country with a 12.4 percent adult infection rate.

“Men can use sex dolls and this will help reduce the cases of AIDS,” he said, contesting the minister’s claim they were illegal.

“There is no law that bans the importation or use of sex dolls and there is no law that criminalises masturbation. The use of sex dolls will be in private, in one’s bedroom and not in a public place.”

Privacy violation?

Zambia is a largely conservative nation, where homosexuality is illegal and anyone in an intimate same-sex relationship faces up to 14 years in jail.

Officials say that sex dolls fall under a constitutional law against making, owning, importing, selling or displaying “obscene matters or things”— punishable with a maximum prison term of five years.

No shops openly sell them in Zambia, though they are available from international internet suppliers.

The state-owned Zambia Daily Mail reported Sumaili’s campaign under the headline “No toying with sex dolls”, and later ran a feature on how the policy was a constant talking point on public minibuses.

“I would order a sex doll without hesitation,” the newspaper quoted one unidentified male passenger as saying.

“I am assured of a disease-free relationship because a sex doll will not cheat on me. They are not materialistic and will forever remain faithful.

“Government is now violating our privacy as citizens,” he said.

Lusaka resident, Jane Kaluba, 25, told AFP that sex dolls were a test of how best to balance morality with individual rights.

“I don’t support the use of sex dolls but I still feel that one should be free to choose what one wants,” she said.

© Agence France-Presse

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

How US foreign policy under Donald Trump has affected Africa

Lesotho has been used as a microcosm in this article to reflect how the foreign policy has affected Africa

Covid-19 disrupts HIV and TB services

While data is still trickling in on how much the pandemic affects health systems, there are far-reaching consequences for people living with HIV and tuberculosis.

The challenges of delivering a Covid-19 vaccine in Africa requires a new approach

It is imperative that we train healthcare workers and participate in continent-wide collaboration

Where do Africans study abroad?

China is becoming the preferred destination for countries such as Ghana and Nigeria

Covid-19 sets HIV treatment and testing back

Fewer people are getting tested for HIV than last year. People are also battling to access chronic medication. These are some of the lasting effects of the lockdown and the coronavirus pandemic

Review: ‘Ikhaya Likamoya’ by Sethembiso Zulu — Ties that bind us all

Multimedia journalist and healer Sethembiso Zulu’s debut solo show embraces a fierce, raw and broken timelessness that encapsulates what it means to be human
Advertising

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

WSU suspends classes and exams to avoid the spread of...

The university says it has to take the precautionary measures because 26 students have tested positive on its East London campus

Entrepreneurs strike Covid gold

Some enterprising people found ways for their ventures to survive the strictest lockdown levels

Ithala backs its embattled chairperson

Roshan Morar is being investigated in connection with KwaZulu-Natal education department backpack sanitiser tender worth R4-million and a batch of face masks that vanished

Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza: Liberating Africa from land of liberté

The cultural and political activist is on a quest to bring looted treasures back home
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday