Priyanka calls for protection of child victims of sexual abuse

Drawing attention to the harrowing traumas of child victims of sexual violence, UNICEF's Goodwill Ambassador Priyanka Chopra has called for an increased support for such children and raising awareness that underage sex can lead to unwanted teen pregnancy or HIV.

Bollywood actor Chopra, who has been the ambassador since December last year and a United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) India Ambassador for 10 years, visited Zimbabwe this week where she met child survivors of sexual violence and heard their harrowing stories. Through her trip, she advocated for increased support for child victims of sexual violence.

"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. Chopra's first stop was in Chitungwiza, south of Harare, Zimbabwe, where she met a 13-year-old girl who was repeatedly raped by her uncle and threatened her if she revealed the abuse.

The girl had become pregnant but with the help of her mother and neighbours, the incident was reported to the police and the uncle who abused her was arrested, tried, and jailed for 10 years.

"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's not OK to be inappropriately touched and that under-age sex can lead to unwanted teen pregnancy or HIV," Chopra said.

Chopra, 34, also visited 'Childline Zimbabwe', the country's 24-hour service for children who have been abused, violated or exploited. Besides providing free, confidential, multilingual counselling to children aged 18 years and under, 'Childline' also offers 25 community-based drop in centres throughout the country. "I was astonished by the number of calls that were coming in during the brief time I was there," she said.

"The counsellors, all volunteers, told me that many calls come from children in hysterics because they had been raped or abused. They were so scared," she added.

Chopra said the model of 'Childline' should be replicated by countries that have high rates of violence against children "because it is a safe place for children to turn to and know that their call will be answered by a compassionate person."
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