Norwegian bride-to-be Thea is sharing her picture-perfect wedding preparations in a thoroughly modern way–through her blog. As she gets ready for her big day, Thea is posting photos of the gorgeous church in which she’ll be wed. She’s adding selfies and snapshots of her wedding dress and cake. She’s also sharing her complex emotions about how she feels about soon becoming a missus, like how she was so frustrated that her wedding plans got in the way of attending her classmate’s birthday party. Thea is 12 years old and on October 11 will marry a man 25 years her senior.
Thea is not real. Nor is Geir, the prospective groom who’s old enough to be Thea’s father. But for a brief moment, Thea’s tale–in which she shared increasingly dark struggles that mirror what real child brides deal with–was taken as legitimate. It sparked outrage in Norway. People called the police and child services. They asked how, in this progressive and prosperous nation, could a girl so young be permitted to marry? And that was exactly the point.
Thea’s blog, which is called Stop the Wedding (or Stopp Bryllupet), is in fact a campaign from Plan Norway, an aid organization dedicated to protecting the rights of children, and is designed to raise awareness around the very real problem that around the world, 39,000 underage girls are forced into marriages every day–despite the fact that according to the UN it is illegal and a violation of human rights.
On his personal blog, Plan Norway secretary general Olaf Thommessen says that rather than show girls from Bangladesh or Tanzania that were actually affected by these unfair marriage practices, the point was to put the issue into a context that Norwegians could relate to. And to shock them into action, the goal being to spread the word on social and encourage people to sponsor girls through Plan.
The campaign was instantly successful, Thommessen writes on his blog. While Thea’s blog was only posted for a few hours before Plan Norway noted its affiliation with it, it was enough to spark an outcry and become the most read blog in Norway. In a matter of weeks the site attracted over 500,000 page views and reached over 2 million people on social media, according to Thommesson–impressive numbers considering Norway has a population of about 5 million and the site is clearly geared toward a Norwegian audience (the site has no English version, leaving the rest of the world to stumble through a Google translation of it.)
Just because the site’s been revealed as the work of Plan Norway, Thea’s story is not quite over. She is still getting “married” on Saturday, which also happens to be the UN’s International Girl’s Day. The wedding of Norway’s first child bride will instead be a national petition against child marriage. Followers are encouraged to add their support the campaign at stoppbryllupet.no where. Then, on October 11 at 2 p.m., to mark Thea’s wedding–or rather people’s protest of it–a Thunderclap will be sent across social media.