Unicef has created a new campaign about a bride and her groom, only there’s a confronting and unsettling twist to the tale.
The bride is in fact a child bride, who is shown getting ready for her wedding, walking down the aisle and crying while her adult husband holds her.
The United Nations agency created a fictional ‘child marriage’, staged in Surrey, to show these kinds of arrangements aren’t limited to specific cultures or countries.
Despite weddings typically thought of as a joyous and festive occasion, an estimated 15 million girls every year are forced into child marriage.
The clip shows snippets of the girl’s life, from a colouring book and teddy bear to her tiny shoes, before the 35-year-old lifts the veil to reveal the 11-year-old girl.
The message “he owns me” is seen on the back of a chair before the video closes with the child crying in her new husband’s arms.
Collaborating with Unicef on the campaign, The Bridal Musings website said it aimed to shine a “spotlight on this grim reality” to mark International Women’s Day.
“Weddings are supposed to be joyous and festive occasions, but this one is anything but a fairytale,” a spokesperson from the website said.
“About 15 million girls will be married as children this year – their right to a childhood ripped away.”
“As wedding bloggers we discuss the love, joy and beauty of weddings on a daily basis but for the millions of young girls who are forced into marriage, a wedding isn’t a joyous occasion – it’s a violation of their human rights, often marking the end of their education, their dreams for the future and their childhood,” it added.
A spokesperson for Unicef commented, “We hope that by casting a bride who may not seem at risk of child marriage and replicating a high-end ‘Western’ wedding we will provoke conversations on equal rights for girls everywhere. We all agree this video is deeply disturbing, yet 41,000 girls under 18 will be married today – in real life.”
“The world has awakened to the damage child marriage causes to individual girls, to their future children, and to their societies,” Unicef executive director Anthony Lake added.
“This is critical now because if current trends continue, the number of girls and women married as children will reach nearly one billion by 2030 – one billion childhoods lost, one billion futures blighted.”
The agency has launched a global initiative to try and combat child marriage, which hopes to reach more than six million girls in 12 countries where the rate of marriages involving children under the age of 18 are particularly high.