This Saturday was supposed to be a big day for 12-year-old Thea, as she finally walked down the aisle to marry her 37-year-old fiance. However, the festivities may be hampered by the fact that neither one of them actually exists.
Thea's disturbing union with a man 25 years her senior in Norway was a digital invention of Plan International, an advocacy group dedicated to lifting children out of poverty. Thea's wedding blog, packed with photos of her matrimonial preparations and confessions about feeling pressured into the union, reportedly sparked concerned calls to child welfare authorities and thousands of horrified conversations in social media.
The group says the stunt was created to highlight that more than 39,000 children in developing countries are forced into marriages every day. Plan International tells the Independent: "We believe that provocation is a powerful tool in order to demonstrate a reality that truly is very provoking. We hope people will mobilize against child marriage by being girl sponsors, so that most of the girls facing Thea's situation every day can escape their brutal fate."