Today is the day when an exceptional wedding is taking place in Oslo; 12-year-old Thea will be walking down the aisle to marry a man 25 years of her senior. Expectedly, the shocked Norwegians received the news with disbelief and Thea’s wedding blog has gone viral.
To the relief of many, the wedding will not result in a legitimate marriage. The ceremony and Thea’s blog are part of a campaign of Plan Norge, an organization that is currently raising awareness of forced child marriages worldwide. Plan has indeed succeeded in getting media attention and the ceremony will be undoubtedly be interrupted by the concerned Norwegians (who are, by now, aware of the real nature of the event).
The question is whether the campaign really is successful. The Kingdom of Norway does not, after all, recognize child marriage (except for over 16-year-olds with the permission of a guardian and the government) and thus the problem has not been current in Sweden for several years. The shock may have resulted from people asking themselves “How could this be happening in Norway? How come the police haven’t intervened? What on Earth could be the reasons behind a Norwegian family arranging a marriage, especially for a girl that young?” instead of the intended “How could someone force their child to marriage at such an young age?”
Child marriage is a cultural problem and, more importantly, it’s a problem against which the Norwegian population is largely powerless. Consequently, the campaign can only help Plan find more sponsorships for their child brides. But how exactly does that work? Bribing the parents into NOT forcing their children to marry? The method does not seem to provide a long-lasting solution and may instead increase the number of child brides as their parents begin to see it as a possible source of income.
So what could be done? As long as the people in the countries concerned don’t stand up more firmly against child marriage it is bound to continue happening. The marriage usually results from the parents seeing their female children as “less worthy” to their male counterparts.
The only way this could be changed is by gradually changing these perceptions within these countries, which could be done by educating the next generation not to make the same mistakes as their parents. But as the families already seem to prefer marriage to education (in some cases the bride must quit school for her husband), this is more easily said than done.
It seems that for now there is no other option than continue bribing the parents in order to buy time for their children to receive the education they need and deserve. If we do this right now, once and for all, there’s a chance that the next generation will be able to protect their children from the threat of an early marriage. To celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child, please become a sponsor for Plan, Unicef, World Vision or another organization and give girls the childhood they are in danger of losing.
Thea’s Wedding Blog (in Norwegian): Theas Bryllup
The Local’s Article: Swedish child bride’s mother ‘heartbroken’