Kmart has removed a child’s bride costume from shelves across Australia after a Melbourne mom said the children’s wedding dress kit normalized forced child marriage.
The retail giant responded swiftly after mom Shannon B created a Change.org petition, which had just 200 signatures at the time, to get rid of the “beyond inappropriate and offensive” dress-up piece.
“Each year, 12 million children (girls as young as 6 years old - the same size as this ‘costume’) are sold or married off by their family without their consent. That’s one million child marriages per month!” Shannon wrote.
“Child marriage means child abuse and torture in its worst forms - paedophilia, child rape, child slavery, child sex trafficking.”
World Vision Australia, a branch of the international humanitarian organization, confirmed the statistics in the original petition align with global data.
In a statement to 7 News Australia, a Kmart spokesperson said they regretted the decision to range the bride costume.
“It was not intended to cause offence and we sincerely apologize. We have made the decision to withdraw this product.”
A counter-petition was launched after Kmart announced the product’s removal on Tuesday, which, at time of writing had garnered more than 3,000 signatures demanding the dress be put back on shelves. “Let kids be kids,” the petition states.
“A lot of parents disagree and want it put back on the shelves as they believe there is nothing wrong with it,” petition owner Sally Lord said.
“Kids love dress ups and weddings are all about love this is a good thing. Kmart if you really want to do something to help, donate the profit sold to an organization that is helping these poor girls being forced to marry,” one commenter suggested.
Claire Rogers, CEO of World Vision Australia, told HuffPost that she didn’t have an issue with the costume in itself ― but she believed the controversy prompted important discourse.
“Kids love playing dress ups as all different things but as a mother, I’d love to see girls dress up as doctors and lawyers as well as brides and princesses,” she said.
“Wherever you sit in this debate, the Kmart dress gives us a rare opportunity to discuss the grave problem of child marriage experienced by millions of young girls every year.”