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Stores pull child bride costume from shelves amid debate

Australian Kmart yanked the white gown and veil after a woman claimed it normalized sex trafficking
/ Source: TODAY

Here comes the... controversy.

Australian Kmart — which has no relation to U.S. Kmart — yanked a child bride Halloween costume after more than 500 people signed an online petition claiming that it normalizes sex trafficking.

"A child bride costume currently exists on Kmart shelves in children’s sizes. Tell Kmart this is beyond inappropriate and offensive and that they have a social responsibility to pull this item off their shelves immediately," wrote the petition creator, who identified herself as Shannon B. “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."

A petition called Kmart Australia's bride costume "beyond inappropriate and offensive."
A petition called Kmart Australia's bride costume "beyond inappropriate and offensive."

Shannon B's campaign on took off with more than 500 signatures, prompting the retail giant to remove the white gown and veil from store shelves.

“It was not intended to cause offense and we sincerely apologize,” a spokesperson told a local news outlet. "We have made the decision to withdraw this product.”

But many don’t understand what the fuss is all about and are accusing Shannon B of being overly sensitive. Sally Lord, a mom in Australia, launched a counter-petition to bring the bride costume back to store shelves.

“A lot of parents disagree and want it put back on the shelves as they believe there is nothing wrong with it,” Lord explained in her statement, which has more than 4,500 supporters.

Not surprisingly, the bride costume has sparked a heated debate on Twitter.

“It’s a costume of a BRIDE that a CHILD would be wearing, it is NOT a CHILD BRIDE costume. Most of us women have hung pillowcases off of our heads as little girls & carried a ‘bouquet’ of flowers. It’s a fantasy for what you might want as an adult — like a nurse or firefighter,” wrote one person.

Argued another, “Does this mean chef and fireman costumes endorse child labor?”

Many U.S. retailers sell similar costumers, seemingly without controversy. Walmart, Chasing Fireflies and Party City, among others, all sell Halloween bride costumes in children's sizes.

But plenty of people — and organizations such as World Vision and UNICEF USA — are praising Shannon B for taking a stand.

As Shannon B wrote on, "The victory of this Kmart petition is that it has attracted international attention and given UNICEF and #WorldVision the opportunity to make media statements about child brides and the reality they face."

"The costume issue illustrates the need for an important dialogue about child marriage and its impacts on girls and women," UNICEF USA said in a written statement provided to TODAY Parents. "The fact is child marriage occurs too often. ...

"We hope that stories like the Kmart costume will inspire families across the world to have similar conversations about child marriage, not just during Halloween season but year-round."

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