How much is your daughter worth?

Kyra is 14 1/2 years old, loves the outdoors, is bright and funny and prepared to be a good wife. Her bride price is $27,995.  Ashlee is 15 years old, into sports, clothes, jewelry and current pop music, yet is looking for a mature man to start her life with and raise a family. Her bride price is $37,500. Kristin is 16 and dreams of becoming an actress. She has a wild streak and her parents think she spends too much time with boys– she needs a husband to settle down and help her achevie her dreams! Her bride price: $49,995.

MarryOurDaughter.com was launched just last week, but already received 60 million hits and thousands of proposals. Unfortunately for the hopeful grooms, this site is a hoax. But I think you would have been able to figure that out for yourself, once you’ve read the testimonials. Or maybe not. Take this one, for example: “Our 15 year old daughter Mary wasn’t very popular and did nothing but mope around the house bringing everybody down, so we decided to marry her off through your site. Now our house is a lot cheerier and we love our new swimming pool and Jaccuzi!” Or how about this one: “Marry Our Daughter found me a husband and my parents were able to keep their house and pay off my mother’s medical bills.  I was so glad I could help them, and being married at my age (I’m 16 now) has a lot of advantages, like my own credit card!”

The site’s creator, John Ordover, gave NEWSWEEK access to the Gmail account where hopeful grooms sent their proposals, and their staff sorted through hundreds of e-mails. In this article, “The Bride Buyers,” NEWSWEEK shares some of the proposals that were emailed to MarryOurDaugher, and the response these men gave when actually contacted.

Predictably, this website has spurred much controversy, which it’s creater says was his purpose in creating it. Ordover says he was hired by a group of women from a local support group who’d been child brides themselves, “sold” by their parents, who wanted to draw attention to a very real problem. If parents approve, girls  in Alabama, Minnesota, Missouri, Utah and New Hampshire can be married under the age of 16. New Hampshire is the lowest in the country: they allow a girl to be married at age 13! Mississippi and South Carolina allow girls under 16 to marry, but not boys. California and Massachusetts specify no minimum age, but require court approval for teens under 18. Utah allows marriages with parental consent at age 14, and also allows a person to marry without consent if he or she has been previously married. (HUH? says Newsweek.)

Newsweek also discusses whether or not such a site would actually be legal. Is this “bride price” akin to a dowry, or would it constitute “trafficking”?  Suzanna Tiapula, an senior attorney with the Center for the Prosecution of Child Abuse at the National District Attorney’s Association, says that essentially, the question is who’s benefiting from the funds. A dowry traditionally goes to the couple, while bride price as it appears on MarryOurDaughter is not much different from actually selling a child. “If the parent is accepting money on behalf of the child, irrelevant of whether the child is of consensual age, it’s definitely trafficking.”

Ordover calls this website “an experiment in Viral Politics” and states, “If we fooled you or disgusted you, you have every right to be angry at us for what we did. But we ask you to direct that anger energy where it will do the most good: toward those in your state who can change the law, your Governor and state representatives.”

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