THE United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) Goodwill Ambassador and award-winning Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra, who was in the country last week, has called for increased awareness and support for child victims of sexual violence.
BY PRECIOUS CHIDA
Chopra, in a statement, said poverty and lack of opportunity were huge drivers of violence which left young women and children in a position of vulnerability to predators.
During her visit to Zimbabwe, Chopra met some of the child survivors of sexual violence in Chitungwiza and Epworth.
“When I met these survivors, young brave women and children, and listened to their experiences, it just broke my heart. I will never forget their stories,” Chopra said.
When she visited Chitungwiza, Chopra said she met a 13-year-old girl, Alice, (not real name) who was repeatedly raped by an uncle and threatened if she revealed the abuse.
However, with the help of her mother and neighbours, the abuse was reported to the police and the uncle was arrested, tried and jailed for 10 years.
“Alice’s story was just one of too many stories I heard from brave young girls during my visit to Zimbabwe. No woman, and most definitely no child, should ever have to experience sexual violence — especially from someone they trust for protection, such as a family member,” she said.
“Alice told me how she had regular abdominal pains, she was 11 at the time, but her mother was unaware there was something wrong. It was only when a relative saw condoms in her bedroom and realised she was sexually active, that the truth came out and by then she was pregnant as her uncle had raped her several times between January and February this year.”
Chopra added: “As a society, it is on us to provide and take care of our children as citizens of the world, to educate children at a young age that it is not okay to be inappropriately touched and that under-age sex can lead to unwanted teen pregnancy or HIV.”
Sexual violence against children is widespread in Zimbabwe with the latest available data showing that close to one in 10 girls aged 15-17 years has been a victim of forced sexual intercourse or a forced sexual act.
Approximately two in three victims were first abused by an intimate partner and approximately one in 10 by a stranger and one survey found that 30% of girls aged between 15-17 years who experienced sexual violence never sought help or told anyone.