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Youth campaigners in Norway are pushing for 18 as the age of marriage

Photo credit: Plan International Norway

A youth-led campaign is shaking things up in Norway. The “wedding busters” are at the forefront of a push to change Norway’s minimum age of marriage, raising it to 18 without exceptions. We spoke to Andreas Gjone, Communications Adviser at Plan International Norway, who oversees the campaign to find out more.

We’ve heard that Norway is planning to raise the marriage age to 18 with no exceptions. What is the current law, and why does it need to change?

At the moment, Norway allows 16 and 17-year-olds to get married with parental consent and permission from the county governor, although marriage at this age is rare.

Source: World Policy Center

A major reason why the law need to change is the global perspective. How can we encourage other countries to ban child marriage if our own law allows it? If we are to end child marriage by 2030, every country should ban child marriage.

Can you tell us more about the campaign? Who was involved? What made it successful?

Young people aged 13-19 are the driving force behind this campaign. Together with Plan International Norway we mobilised support from all over Norway for a child marriage ban. Plan organised a youth camp in Oslo where we trained over 50 youth ambassadors to lead sessions about child marriage around the country.

Youth activists on their way to the County Governor in Oslo. Photo credit: Plan International Norway

Inspired by a youth campaign in Bangladesh, they called themselves “wedding busters” and started recruiting other young activists across the country to support their campaign.

Barneekteskap er lov i flere land enn du tror – også i Norge. Dette vil over 9000 ungdommer gjøre noe med.

Posted by Plan International Norge on Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Over 9,400 young people sent letters to their county governor to ask why child marriage was allowed in Norway. Press picked up on the campaign and the story spread on social media, in the newspapers, on TV and radio. Dozens of youths also wrote op-eds in the local newspapers about the campaign.

Soon the major political parties announced that they supported an age limit of 18 years – without exceptions.

"Høres det ikke ganske fjernt ut å bli gift som barn – før man kan kjøre bil, stemme, eller kjøpe nesespray?"Wedding Busters er en global ungdomsbevegelse som kjemper for å få slutt på barneekteskap i verden – og i Norge. Bli med du også!

Posted by Plan International Norge on Thursday, 28 September 2017

They now have a Facebook group for “wedding busters” all over the world.

What happens now?

The Norwegian Parliament is due to decide on the new law on March 6. The government and the major parties have said they wanted to change it, so we are hopeful it will go through.

There is public support for the law change. We did an official survey through Norstat and asked whether Norway should have an absolute 18 year limit for marriage. 64 % said “yes”, 19 % said “don’t know”, and 17 % said “no”.

How has Plan International Norway been working on child marriage in the country?

In 2014, we organised a media stunt for International Day of the Girl. It involved the fictional blog of 12-year-old Thea who counted down the days to her wedding. The blog received millions of views, drawing attention to the issue of child marriage globally and in Norway.

Plan International works against child marriage globally, but we do not have any programmes against child marriage in Norway. However, we want Norway, and the people of Norway, to commit strongly to the global fight against child marriage. We need to start by sorting out our own laws if we ask any other country to do it.