An Indian state minister has given hundreds of wooden bats to newly-wed brides, urging them to use the paddle as a weapon if their husbands turn alcoholic or abusive.
Gopal Bhargava gave the bats ─ which are used to get dirt out of clothes in traditional laundries ─ to nearly 700 brides at a mass wedding organised by the government of central Madhya Pradesh state on Saturday.
The nearly foot-long paddles are emblazoned with messages that read: “For beating drunkards” and “Police won’t intervene”.
Bhargava told the brides to reason with their husbands first, adding that they should “let the wooden paddles do the talking” if their spouses refuse to listen.
Bhargava told the agencies he wanted to draw attention to the plight of rural women who face domestic abuse from their alcoholic husbands.
“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.” The minister has ordered nearly 10,000 bats for distribution to newly-wed women.
Many Indian states have launched a crackdown on liquor in recent years, either banning or restricting its sale in a bid to curb alcohol-fuelled violence.
Last year, the government of Tamil Nadu state vowed to introduce prohibition as part of its campaign to win re-election.
The pledge was popular with women voters, who blame alcohol for much of the state’s domestic and sexual violence, and for depleting the income of poor families.
Experts have expressed caution, pointing to a possible rise in the production of illegal and often deadly moonshine.
The neighbouring southern state of Kerala introduced a ban on alcohol sales in most hotels from 2014.
Eastern Bihar state imposed a ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol last year while western Gujarat state has practised prohibition for decades.