700 Indian brides given wooden paddles to beat and abusive husbands

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In the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, 700 brides at a mass wedding were presented with wooden bats and told to use them as weapons should their husbands become drunk or abusive.

The paddles are normally used for getting dirt out of clothes in traditional laundries, but those given out to the brides were stamped with pink and blue messages saying "a gift to keep drunks in check" and "police won't say anything"

At the ceremony in central India over the weekend, Gopal Bhargava, the minister of social justice and rural development, presented women with the bats and urged them to put them to use if necessary.

He said: "If your husband or any other member of family comes home drunk, treat him with it." Mr Bhargava has ordered nearly 10,000 bats for distribution to newlywed women.

He explained that the purpose of the bats was to help rural women protect themselves as concerns over alcoholism mount in India.

"Women say whenever their husbands get drunk they become violent. Their savings are taken away and splurged on liquor," he told AFP news agency.

"There is no intent to provoke women or instigate them to violence but the bat is to prevent violence."

Mr Bhargava said he got the idea for the wedding presents when a woman asked him whether she should get her husband to stop drinking by beating him with a wooden plank.

In Madhya Pradesh the Gulabi Gang - a group of female vigilantes clad in pink saris and carrying wooden sticks - have recently launched a campaign to stop vendors selling alcohol and to shut down illicit moonshine operations.

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 pledged to instate prohibition as part of its campaign to win re-election, and Eastern Bihar imposed an alcohol ban in 2016.