12-year-old Thea’s wedding
— Plan Norge (@PlanNorge) October 11, 2014
Thea from Norway is barely a teenager, yet her parents have decided to marry her off to 37-year-old Geir. Thea’s written a blog, documenting all her experiences up to the wedding day.
Surprised? I too was quite shocked when I read about Thea’s “Wedding blog” on a news website over the weekend. I’m from India and at the risk of sounding indifferent I’ll admit that any similar news from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan seems quite “normal” to me. I know such things happen in “my part of the world” almost on a daily basis.
But a case of child marriage in Norway- that’s what took me by surprise.
Thea writes for example, that her mother keeps telling her to “stop acting like a child” because she will soon have her own family. “What does she mean by that exactly? Think she wants me to get my own children soon,” Thea asks her readers.
She posts pictures of her hugging her teddy bear, telling her readers how awful she feels and how she keeps falling sick at school because she’s nervous about the wedding.
She does however like some ideas of marriage. She’s thrilled when her mother tells her that she won’t have to go to school once she gets married. Then again, she’s sad that she will have to leave home: “Mom said I am to move together with Geir after the wedding…It is just in a few weeks then I am getting married. Can one force anybody to move?”
While reading an article about Thea’s wedding blog in the Huffington post I thought Thea was from a dysfunctional family and had got involved in some strange medieval religious cult where women were supposed to get married early.
I was wrong, thankfully.
Child marriages around the world
— laura palmer (@ajieflorida) October 11, 2014
Thea’s wedding, currently the most read blog in Norway, is a clever strategy by Plan International, an organization that works to promote children’s rights. The blog aims to raise awareness about the fact that nearly 39,000 children are forced into marriage every day around the world.
Bangladesh has the highest percentage of child marriages. Nearly 35 percent of women between the ages of 20 – 49 were married before they were 18 years old. 25 percent of women in the same age group got married before they turned 18 in Niger, India, Ethiopia and Guinea.
According to the UNICEF, one in three girls in the age group 20-24 worldwide was a child bride. When a girl is married early, her life is compromised. She is usually isolated from her social environment because she moves to live with her husband. This leads to her dropping out from school.
An early marriage also means that she is not aware of birth control methods and ends up getting pregnant because the marriage is usually consummated, even if her husband is much older than she is. Since she is too young to be pregnant, she is at risk of losing her child and of falling ill because her body cannot deal with all the changes that happen during pregnancy.
Thea’s not getting married
Naturally, Thea’s blog posts caused an outrage among Norwegians. Some began asking whether she was really getting married and some readers even called up the police to stop any such wedding from taking place. The hashtag #stoppbryllupet (stop the wedding) began trending on Twitter.
The girl who was writing as Thea all along is actually Maja, an adolescent who’s trying to raise awareness on child marriage. Maja’s blogposts have inspired a petition by Norway against child marriage.
Supporters can join the campaign and sponsor a girl anywhere in the world with a high risk of being married off as a child. Five-year-old Mita, from Bangladesh for example, has been featured on Plan’s website as a prospective child bride if she does not receive help very soon.
Thea and Geir’s “wedding,” which was supposed to take place on October 11, has been cancelled. If you watch their wedding video, you’ll see how Thea walks up the aisle with her father and finally says no when the priest reads out her wedding vows.
Author: Manasi Gopalakrishnan
Editor: Grahame Lucas
Date13.10.2014 | 12:44