Each year, more than 15 million girls around the world are married before their 18th birthday. Children as young as six years old are sold into forced marriages with men who are old enough to be their grandfathers and great-grandfathers.
In some communities, the men have multiple wives, while others settle for just the one child bride. But with each minute that passes throughout the day, 28 girls are robbed of their childhood.
Every two seconds, a girl who once had a hope for a future and a right to LIFE, instead becomes someone’s bride.
Of course, when we talk about childhood marriage, it’s easy to think, “Gosh, that’s terrible—I’m glad it doesn’t happen here.”
Or does it?
According to Equality Now, child marriage is LEGAL in 44 states. Only Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island have set the minimum legal age for marriage at 18 years old and eliminated any exceptions. 20 U.S. states do not require any minimum age for marriage, with a parental or judicial waiver.
Nearly 300,00 children were married in the U.S. between 2000 and 2018. The vast majority were girls wed to adult men, many much older.
What if you were in the busiest place in the United States and witnessed a young girl—maybe the same age as your own daughter—donning a white wedding gown while being paraded around by a man five times her age?
YouTube prankster Cody Persin put the people of New York City to the test.
Posing as a wedding photographer for the only halfway-happy couple, Cody snaps photos of the “child bride” and her appallingly older “groom” as the social experiment unfolds in the center of Times Square.
Dozens of people look on in shock, and it doesn’t take long for many of them to approach the young girl and offer their own voice for hers.
Some ask the timid young girl questions of concern in an effort to help, while others zone in completely on the old man, hounding him for the injustice he’s committing.
In the end, Cody’s experiment worked.
It proved that people in the United States would stand up for a child being forced into marriage because it’s wrong. But even though his experiment proved to bring out the best in people, in 20 U.S. states, even people speaking up in defense of the child would not prevent a marriage from happening.
33,000 girls are sold into marriage around the world every single day. We can only expect that number to be significantly higher now following the collapse of Iran in 2021.
The 12-year-old bride in NYC was dressed in traditional wedding attire, and people were able to SEE the injustice unfolding. But across the globe, these children are invisible. They are born into poverty and sold into poverty, and no white wedding gown exposes the generational cycle of injustice they live day in and day out.
Millions of girls are left without a voice, without a childhood and without a chance.
Albert Einstein once said, “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”
We have the power to give childhood back to the children.
Girls Not Brides is a global partnership of more than 800 organizations committed to ending child marriage, and equipping girls with the resources and support to reach their full potential.
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