An Indian state minister distributed nearly 10,000 bats to newlywed brides— not to play cricket but to safeguard themselves against physical abuse.
Gopal Bharagava gifted the brides with the bats at a mass wedding organized by the government of Central Madhya Pradesh in an attempt to curb sexual assault faced by Indian women and urged them to use the wooden paddles if their husbands get out of control after getting drunk.
The bats (read: weapons of safety) had messages of “For beating drunkards” and “Police won’t intervene” written over them.
The Indian state minister said he wanted to draw attention to the ordeal of rural Indian women who suffered from domestic abuse at the hands of their alcoholic husbands. Bhargava thought the bats were an “important step towards bringing social change.”
"The government or police alone would not be able to solve this problem. For this, people have to come forward. There are many examples in history which show that when masses intervene, things have changed for the better," he said while presenting the wooden bats in his home town Garhakota in Madhya Pradesh's Sagar district.
Bharagava made it very clear that his intent wasn’t to encourage violence. He advised the brides to talk and reason with their husbands first in order to control the situation; however if the husbands continue with the assault and don’t listen to them, he suggested the women to “let the wooden paddles do the talking.”
“Women say whenever their husbands get drunk they become violent. Their savings are taken away and splurged on liquor,” he said.
“There is no intent to provoke women or instigate them to violence but the bat is to prevent violence.”
According to research, “Men's perception of women's failure to comply with gender-based norms around household practice and public performance can be exacerbated by alcohol myopia, which may focus attention on women as an immediate and vulnerable target. Intimate partner violence rises in the context of alcohol use.”
Many Indian states have banned or restricted the sale of liquor to curb violence exacerbated by alcohol.
The government of Tamil Nadu vowed to ban the production, transportation, import and sale of alcoholic beverages as part of it re-election campaign to win after receiving pledged for the prohibition.
Mostly women voters supported the ban, blaming alcohol as a major contributor toward the state’s domestic and sexual violence and for diminishing the income of poor income families.
Experts cautioned to a possible rise in the production of illegal and often deadly liquor. In 2014, the neighboring southern state of Kerala introduced a ban on alcohol sales in most hotels.
The Eastern Bihar state also imposed a ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol last year while western Gujarat state has practiced prohibition for decades.
Though this might prevent women to some extent, it cannot be concluded as an ultimate solution in a country where marital rape is legal. The provision of rape in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) states that, “Sexual intercourse by man with his own wife, the wife not being under 12 years of age, is not rape.”
The illegal abortion of female fetuses, killing of women over dowry disputes, rape, domestic violence and basic neglect of Indian women are to be blamed for this growing gender disparity, which, according to a 2011 census, has turned into the giant figure of 37.5 million.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters