It seems like a practical gift, but it's something the giver, and more so the receiver, both hope that the latter would not have to use in her lifetime- or at least, for the purpose it was intended for. A state minister in India has given hundreds of wooden bats to newly-wed brides, with an encouragement to use the paddle as a handy weapon if their husbands turn alcoholic or abusive.
The bats are similar to those used to get the dirt out of clothes in traditional laundry works. Gopal Bhargava gifted similar bats to 700 brides at a mass wedding organized by the government of central Madhya Pradesh state on Saturday. The almost foot-long paddles even come with emblazoned messages that read: "For beating drunkards" and "Police won't intervene".
Bhargava advised the women that in a case of trouble, their first resort should be to talk to their husbands peacefully first, but that they should be ready to let the paddles do the talking if their partners refuse to listen to them. Bhargava told the media that his unconventional gift is not a mere attempt at political gimmickry, but a way to draw attention to the plight of rural women who face domestic abuse from their alcoholic husbands.
Bhargava said that women's sad experiences in the past tell of husbands getting drunk and turning violent. Many times their savings are forcefully taken away from them, only to be spent on alcoholic drinks. Bhargava was also quick to clarify that it is not his intent to provoke women or instigate them to violence, but that the bat is intended to prevent violence.
The minister has ordered for a huge volume of 10,000 pieces of bats as gifts to newly-wed women. In recent years, many Indian states have mounted a crackdown on liquor by either banning or restricting sales in the bid to stop or minimize alcohol-fueled violence. The government of Tamil Nadu state, in fact, vowed to introduce prohibiting the sale of liquor as part of its campaign to win re-election last year.
Such pledge became popular with women voters, who blame alcohol for many of the state's domestic and sexual violence, and for contributing to the depletion of the income of poor families. The neighboring southern state of Kerala also introduced an alcohol ban in most hotels in 2014. Eastern Bihar state also imposed a ban on the sale and consumption of liquor last year, while western Gujarat state has been practicing a ban for decades running. Experts have, however, expressed concern and caution that alcohol bans might inspire the rise in the production of illegal and often deadly moonshine as the alternative to standard liquor.