Typically on their special day, brides are looking for something old, new, borrowed, and blue. However, one man is stirring up controversy by presenting newlywed Indian women with a very unconventional wedding gift.
Gopal Bhargava, a minister in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, India, is handing out state-issued wooden bats to newlywed women to ward off drunk or abusive husbands. He has now given them to more than 700 women and their families at a mass wedding ceremony that included mostly poor women in the Garhakota district. He has allegedly ordered over 10,000 bats and intends to distribute all of them.
Bhargava urges women to use these weapons against their new husbands to protect themselves if they become abusive or drunk. This public stunt comes amid nationwide efforts to crackdown on alcohol-linked violence against women. He also clarifies that they are only to be used in self-defense.
On both sides of the bats, CNN reports there are two inscriptions that loosely translate to “This bat is given to reform the alcoholics,” on one side and “police will not say anything,” on the other. This message from the minister ensures women that they will not be prosecuted for using this weapon against their husbands should they turn violent.
These bats, “mogri” in Hindi, have flat sides instead of rounded ones because they are traditionally used as cleaning instruments to remove dirt from clothes. Bhargava states that now, “they’re multipurpose.”
In addition to the bats, women and their families were also given beds, cooking utensils, other household items, and a stipend for a cell phone.
Hopefully, this seemingly extreme measure is a temporary solution that the minister found to protect the women of India. Alcoholism, Bhargava says, is a serious issue for the women in his district.
“When I go to the village all the women tell me to ban liquor,” he told CNN. In his experience, alcohol causes more harm than good, especially in domestic life. Four states currently have some sort of alcohol restrictions or bans; however, it is not completely outlawed in Madhya Pradesh.
While alcohol abuse does contribute to domestic violence, it doesn’t solve the underlying problem. A study by the BBC in 2014 stated that about once every 5 minutes, an instance of domestic violence in India was reported. That says a lot about the real issue, which is the way women are perceived and treated by their society.
No man should ever harm a woman, especially one he is married to, sober or not. Indian women are often seen only in relation to their husbands. She is deemed “worthy” based on what she does for him or how obedient she is. The problem is a lack of equality.
Hopefully Bhargava’s drastic measures prove to be a stepping stone towards a world where women won’t need bats to protect themselves from someone who is only meant to love and support them.
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