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The Story of Norway’s First ‘Child Bride’

A global NGO faked the wedding of a 12-year-old to drive home a point

Published: 16th October 2014 06:07 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd December 2014 10:17 AM   |  A+A-

NGO

BANGALORE: The United Nations Organisation observed International Day of the Girl Child on October 11. On the same day, Plan Norway, a global organisation engaged in developmental work for children, announced Norway’s first official child wedding. Twelve-year-old Thea was all set to marry 37-year-old Geir at Jakobskirken in Oslo, in the presence of her friends, family and the thousands of people who had gathered outside to protest against the wedding.  

Earlier this month, Theas Bryllup, the young girl’s wedding blog, gained immense popularity in the web world. In the blog, she wrote about the emotions that she went through in the days leading up to the wedding. While in one post, she regretted that she would never be able to fulfil her dream of becoming a veterinarian, in another, she expressed anger over her parents not letting her attend her male friend’s birthday party.

Thea’s mother had said that Geir, who worked with computers, would take care of her and that she would just have to stay home. Upon realising that she would have to ‘grow up soon’ now that she is getting married, she wrote, “I’ve had so much on my mind in the past few days and I have been really slow to unpack and clean. When my mom saw how little I had done, she was pissed and said I had to stop acting like a child now that I will soon have my own family to take care of. What did she mean by that, exactly? Does she want me to have children soon? I know that it is normal when you get married, especially if you have sex and stuff.”

Traumatised by the teen’s confessions, people from all over the world began blogging, sharing and tweeting in protest. The hashtags #stoppbryllupet and #StopTheWedding began trending and reached out to over 3.5 million people on Facebook and Twitter. And on the day of the wedding, a huge crowd stood outside the church holding placards and shouting, “Stop the wedding.” Amidst all the noise and soft music, Thea walked down the isle and stood at the altar. When the minister, Rolf Berg, asked if she took Geir to be her husband, Thea shook her head and walked away slowly.

It was later revealed that the wedding was a campaign to shock people into knowing that over 39,000 underage girls are forced into marriages every day. Maja Bergström, who played Thea, said it was really tough to be a child bride and that everything was so wrong. Actor Halvard Holmen, who played Geir, said, “It felt completely grotesque to stand at the altar and know that the unhappy little girl was walking up the aisle to marry a character that had been played by me.”

The social evil that destroys the lives of young girls and leads to early pregnancies and other fatal complications is still a normal way of life in many parts of the world. And the campaign has brought to fore the stories of many women who escaped child marriage.

At the ceremony, 18-year-old Shahida Akhter Shorna said, “At the age of 14, my family said I had to marry a grown man. I said no. I was scared and cried, but the pressure in the little community was huge. I told my family that it was wrong to marry off a small child, and finally I persuaded them that I didn’t have to get married. Today I am proud to say I have helped four other child brides out of child marriages. Thea, don’t say yes. You’re still a child. Stop the wedding.”

The people who had come to the church to voice their protest went home with something to think about.



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