Each year, 12 million girls are married before they turn 18. That amounts to 23 girls every minute, or one every three seconds. Often, child brides are only 6 or 7 years old, and their husbands may be in their 60s or 70s. This is a global problem that is common and surpasses all nations, boundaries, cultures, and ethnicities—from the Far East to the Americas.
As per Girls Not Brides, a “global partnership of more than 1,000 civil society organizations from over 95 countries committed to ending child marriage,” about 650 million women alive today were married when they were children.
These girls are forever robbed of their childhood and their dreams and instead become a wife to someone. Whilst we’d like to think it absolutely wouldn’t happen in developed nations, how would people react if they were aware that such an act could take place in New York?
YouTube prankster Cody Persin staged a mock marriage between a 12-year-old girl and a 65-year-old man in February 2016 to gauge the reactions of onlookers in Times Square, New York.
Cody posed as the photographer taking “happy snaps” of the young bride and her partner, but what he captured were many shocked and indignant onlookers, and they weren’t happy at all.
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Cody’s experiment did work; onlookers were prepared to stand up for the young bride. Nearly everyone in the vicinity was focused on the “ceremony.” One concerned onlooker approached the “couple” and questioned the 12-year-old bride, “where is your mom?” and shared that she was young. The elderly groom then responds that her parents gave him permission to get married to her.
Shocked passersby stopped by and stared at the couple, who still continued with their marriage photo shoot. Another young man stopped by and intervened, asking the groom for the couple’s age. When the youngster insists the 12-year-old “doesn’t want to be married,” the groom further states he has permission from her parents.
A crowd gathers on around them, as people in Times Square can’t believe what they are witnessing. One lady states, “you can’t do this to a little girl.”
Another lady who is absolutely dumbfounded and couldn’t just ignore what she was witnessing confronts the senior citizen and immediately jumps in to help. Arguing that the bride is too young, she whisks her away from the so-called ceremony.
The best reaction comes from two boys who stop by and confront the couple.
Though this is a mock wedding, however, according to a report in Reuters, the majority of states in the United States “do not lay out a minimum age for marriage if statutory exceptions are met, such as parental or judicial consent or in case of pregnancy.”
According to the New York Times, Tahirih Justice Center, an advocacy group, showed data from public records that between 2000 and 2015, more than 200,000 minors were married.
As per Forbes, the risks of a child marriage are as real in the United States as in developing countries. “It’s important to have legislation on child marriage on the books, but the law in and of itself is not going to change people’s minds,” said Mark Engman, UNICEF managing director, Public Policy and Advocacy. “We have to convince people that stopping child marriage is the right thing to do. You do that by letting them know, ‘Hey, you think you’re helping your kids by letting them get married early, but you’re not. It always, always, always ends up hurting the kids.’”
Currently, only two states, Delaware and New Jersey, require a minimum age of marriage of 18 without exceptions.
Below is the video of the mock wedding and the reaction of New Yorkers: