It’s not every day you see a 12-year-old posing for wedding photos with a 65-year-old man in the middle of a city.

New Yorkers walking through Times Square were in for a shock when they spotted a young girl in a wedding dress beside a man more than five times her age.

Their disgust is palpable. “How old are you sweetheart?” one passerby asks repeatedly.

“How is this happening?”

“Are you f**king kidding me?”

The groom insists “I have the permission of the parents,” but the people walking by are not prepared to settle for this. Several threaten to call the police, and one man actively breaks the couple apart to take the girl to the authorities.

The video stunt was orchestrated by YouTuber Coby Persin to shed light on the prevalence of child marriage across the world.

Every year, 15 million girls are married as children. While a 12-year-old bride is not an everyday sight in New York, 76% of married women in Niger are married before their 18th birthday.

And in Lebanon, 1 in 100 people are married before their 15th birthday. A similar video organised by KAFA, a Lebanese pressure group seeking to end violence and exploitation against women, highlights the varying attitudes towards child marriage in the region. The problem of child marriage in Lebanon has been exacerbated by the refugee crisis, with 6% of Syrian refugee girls getting married in the country before they turn 18 as parents see no other option for their daughters.

Denied agency over their own futures and the chance to create a life for themselves, child brides often lose their right to education. They are left disempowered from a young age, with their livelihoods entirely dependent on their husbands. Forced to conceive children whilst they themselves are still children, they are more likely to suffer complications during pregnancy. If a mother is under 18 when she gives birth, her child’s risk of dying in its first year of life is 60% higher than a child born to a mother over 19.

Ending child marriage is crucial to empowering women and girls around the world. It’s powerful to see ordinary citizens refusing to stand by, actively intervening to protect a child’s innocence. The film brings a global violation of human rights down to a local level - a reminder of the struggle thousands of girls face each day. Now is the time for global citizens everywhere to intervene on behalf of all girls in similar situations.


Demand Equity

This is how New Yorkers react to the sight of a child bride

By Yosola Olorunshola