Thea is a 12-year-old Norwegian girl who loves horses, One Direction, and writing all about her life on her pink-accented blog. Since she began posting on September 12, her blog has become one of the most trafficked sites in Norway. Why? Because, it's Thea's wedding blog.
In her first entry, Thea announces that in a month — on October 11, 2014 — she will marry 37-year-old Geir. "I learned from Mom yesterday that I'm getting married," she writes (her words translated from Norwegian). "Who I will marry is named Geir and it is a bit strange, because I know he really is so grown-up."
When Thea's blog came to light, it sparked disgust and outrage in Norway and around the world. For the past month, Thea has written about picking out wedding desserts and a dress, and also about her fear of sex with her new husband (she admits she had to search for the word "sex" online to figure out what it was), and her sadness that she'll never achieve her goal of becoming a veterinarian. "My dream has always been that I want to be a vet," she writes, "because then I can work with horses and stuff like that all the time. But, when I talked about it today, Mom said that I do not really need to work or go to school now that I'm marrying Geir."
What some horrified readers missed is the "Plan Norway" emblem at the bottom of Thea's blog. The blog is part of a brilliant viral campaign from the women's- and girls'-rights organization Plan International, which crafted Thea's "marriage" to highlight the plight of the 39,000 girls who are married off each day globally, usually to much-older men, and often abandoning their educations in the process.
Photo: Courtesy of Plan International.
These child brides face increased risk of premature pregnancy, maternal mortality, infant mortality, HIV/AIDS, illiteracy, poverty, abuse, and violence as compared with older wives; the World Bank reports that complications from pregnancy and childbirth kill 70,000 teenage girls a year. By couching a child marriage in relatable Western traditions, Plan Norway is demonstrating that what 39,000 girls a day undergo around the world — in Niger, in Bangladesh, in Mozambique and beyond — is a crime.
Thea's wedding ceremony, which will take place at Jacob's Church in Oslo tomorrow (also the International Day of the Girl Child) will not be legally recognized; minimum marriageable age in Norway is 18 (16 with the consent of a parent or guardian). But, this legislation is not in place in many of the countries where child marriage is endemic, and even where marriage-age laws have been enacted, they're often not enforced (see our story on the child brides of Pakistan). Visit Plan International's website for more information on child marriage and what we can do to stop it, wherever it occurs.