Thursday, March 10, 2016

Tens of thousands of child brides will marry today

A YOUNG girl’s bouncy curls fall softly around her face as her bright blue eyes are framed with a shimmery gold shadow and her lips are painted red. 

She slips into a white lace dress ironed by her mother then almost disappears under a long, thin veil. Her husband-to-be, John, 35, stands at the alter, waiting for her hand in marriage in front of a small crowd of family and friends.
Lily is 11-years-old and today is her wedding day. Fortunately for this little girl, she is only acting as part of an international campaign from UNICEF to put a spotlight on the grim reality of child marriages. But for 41,000 girls under the age of 18 who are married off all over the world every day, the scenario depicted in the clip is all too real. The clip featuring actors Lily and John was released as part of a global effort to prevent children from marrying and to support those already wed in 12 countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East where child marriage rates are high. Produced by one of the world’s most influential wedding blogs, Bridal Musings, it has gone viral with more than 10 million views and 150,000 shares on social media since it went live just a few days ago. According to UNICEF, the reality of 15 million girls globally being married before their 18th birthdays, has “resonated with Australians”. “That is sickening ... I can just imagine what those girls are going through,” one social media user wrote. But it’s not just the alarming numbers of child brides that has struck a chord with viewers of the clip. Many have pointed out that the characters shouldn’t have been portrayed by “white and blue-eyed” actors from Western countries where child marriage rates are lower than elsewhere. “Just wondering why you chose to feature a blonde, Caucasian girl? one social media user wrote to UNICEF. “Doesn’t really reflect the majority of children subjected to child marriage.” According to a spokesperson for the children’s charity, the casting decision was a deliberate move to “provoke conversations on equal rights”. “Child marriage affects girls in all regions of the world but it is true that the highest prevalence rates are in Africa and South Asia,” a statement from UNICEF read. “We hope that by casting a girl who may not seem at risk of child marriage, and replicating a highly stylised “Western” wedding video, we will provoke conversations on equal rights for girls everywhere. “For example, if this story is shocking and unacceptable in an Australian or North American context, aren’t girls in Niger, India or Lebanon equally deserving of our protection?

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