Today’s Richard Dawkins-centred Twitter row is about child marriage and Islam. It was sparked by his circulation of a Huffington Post article on the tragic case of an 8 year old girl in Yemen who died of internal injuries caused by the wedding night sex with her new 40 year old husband. A 2009 law to set the minimum age of marriage in Yemen at 17 was repealed by conservatives as “un-Islamic”.
Many of the religious apologist responses pointed out that poverty, not Islam (or any other religion), is the key factor in the prevalence of child marriages. Indeed a recent report by World Vision UK, linked from the Huffington Post article circulated by Dawkins, identifies the girls most at risk of child marriage as tending to be “poor, under-educated and … rural” and living in areas with high death rates, civil conflict and “lower overall levels of development including schooling and healthcare”. “Poverty, weak legislative frameworks and enforcement, harmful traditional practices, gender discrimination and lack of alternative opportunities for girls (especially education) are all major drivers of early marriage,” the report summarises.