"I was jogging but my feet froze when I saw her."
That's what one bystander in Lebanon said upon seeing a young girl in a wedding dress posing with what appeared to be a groom old enough to be her grandfather. This shocked reaction was one of many captured in a video released this week by Lebanese women's rights organization Kafa -- a video that also shows many pedestrians stopping to congratulate the man on his marriage. For four years, Kafa has been campaigning against Lebanon's reservations to adopting Article 16 of the United Nations' 1979 Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which protects women's and girls' choice in marriage. Article 16 of CEDAW mandates that countries grant men and women equal rights to choose their spouse, enter into marriage and manage familial affairs.
The photo shoot -- and resulting video -- was a social experiment Kafa staged to gauge Lebanese people's attitudes toward child marriage. "Kafa" is the Arabic word for "enough."
Six percent of Lebanese girls are married by the time they turn 18, and 1 percent by age 15, UNICEF reported last year. Across the world, 15 million girls are married each year before their 18th birthday. Currently, Lebanon's legal age for marriage without parental consent is 17 for girls and 18 for boys, The Independent reported in July. With parental consent, however, girls as young as 9 can legally get married in the country, according to the World Policy Center, which collected data from resources including legal databases. Lebanon said last year that it was working on a draft law to regulate child marriages, but that religious authorities could still exempt families from marriage laws. Different religious communities in Lebanon have varying laws on marriage and personal status, according to global rights organization Girls Not Brides. Child brides are more susceptible to sexual abuse and domestic violence, reports the World Health Organization. Babies born to mothers under 20 years old are 50 percent more likely to die within a few weeks of birth than babies born to mothers in their 20s, Girls Not Brides noted, and girls under 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women between 20 and 24.
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