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SATURDAY’S CHILD: Assault and battery


SATURDAY’S CHILD: Assault and battery

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LISTENING TO THE BBC news last week, I heard the news headline that hundreds of Indian women were given bats by the government for their drunken husbands.

I know that India is cricket crazy and the men, especially, worship the game. Still, I found the news hard to believe, since cricket bats are very costly and I felt certain that the government could find better use for the people’s money. 

Like the Trinidad and Tobago government, they could complete an abandoned stadium and name it after their top player (e.g. the Sachin Superdome), or buy a cable and Internet operation to supplement a money-losing state enterprise engaged in the same business.

Then I thought that if they had so many bats in the belfry, maybe the bats were members of the species Chiroptera, nocturnal creatures with wings that hang upside down, something to which all governments seem prone especially when it comes to the order in which they do things.

For example, a government can make a magistrate a judge and then find out about the many unfinished cases that the person left behind. But then, when the person goes back to the magistracy, the government has to deal with the cases left behind by the judge during her three weeks on the bench. The phrase “as blind as a bat” comes to mind.

Drunkeness is a huge problem, especially in rural India. Given the unlighted roads and lack of development, it could be very dangerous staggering home at night. I used to see a lot of men in the same condition in Trinidad when I was growing up and realised that a trained bat could be useful to guide them safely home even though, for a drunk person – especially one prone to hallucinations – it could be a nightmarish enough experience and may even cure him of the habit.

But the bats the women got are not the grinning creatures which fly, but the wooden club used in games like cricket or baseball. Drunk Indian men are wife-beaters. They batter their helpless spouses. The bats are for battery.

The BBC quotes Gopal Bhargava, a state minister in Madhya Pradesh, who said he wanted to highlight the issue of domestic abuse and so gave wooden bats to 700 brides at a mass wedding, urging them to use the bats as weapons if their husbands turn abusive. Messages such as “for use against drunkards” and “Police won’t intervene” are written on the paddles, which measure about 15 inches and are more traditionally used for laundry.

He told the women to try to reason with their husbands before using them but if their spouses refuse to listen, they should let the paddles – known as mogri and usually used to beat dirt out of clothes – “do the talking”.

Right off the bat it would be easy to reject Bhargava’s plan because fighting fire with fire, or a battering for a battering, does not sound like a long-term, win-win solution but more like a real battle of the sexes.

Bhargarva explained further: “Women say whenever their husbands get drunk they become violent. Their savings are taken away and splurged on liquor.  There is no intent to provoke women or instigate them to violence but the bat is to prevent violence.” However, Bhargava’s initial order is for 10 000 bats.

A 2014 report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW), based on data from seven Indian states, revealed that about 60 per cent of married Indian men have admitted to using violence to assert their dominance over their partners.

The Times of India reported that the study Masculinity, Intimate Partner Violence and Son Preference in India also found that 52 per cent of the 3 158 women surveyed had experienced some form of violence during their lifetime. A higher proportion of women reported experiencing physical violence (38 per cent) followed by emotional violence (35 per cent), which includes insults, intimidation and threats.

These were followed by 17 per cent of women who claimed that their husbands or partners had been sexually violent against them, and 16 per cent saying they were economically abusive (husband or partner prohibits her from working, takes her earnings against her will).

Regardless of age, men who experience economic stress were more likely to have perpetrated violence. The study, which surveyed 9 205 men, said this may be because of norms related to masculinity which reinforce the expectation that men are primary economic providers for their households. The Times adds that regardless of age, men who experience economic stress were more likely to have perpetrated violence.

The flip side of the coin does not promise a peaceful solution so much as the escalation of existing domestic violence. Several Egyptian and Indian newspapers claim that a UN study indicates that Egyptian women ranked first in the world for abusing and beating their husbands and are followed by women from the United Kingdom and India.

The data is said to have further revealed that wives don’t only use their hands in beating their husbands, but also tools such as pins, belts, weapons, kitchen tools and shoes. Some even using sleeping pills in order to beat and burn their husbands.

If this is true, then Bhargava’s advice to women that they can use the bats “below the belt” is definitely not cricket and not a long-term solution either. 

Tony Deyal was last seen saying that giving bats to the women is seen by some as an election stunt but, even if it is, it might be better than the rum and roti, or rum and corned-beef prevalent in some Caribbean countries.