The Independent Newspaper has reported that Gopal Bargave (a minister in the state of Madhya Pradesh in india) has handed out the paddles, traditionally used to get dirt out of clothes in old-fashioned laundries, to around 700 brides at a mass wedding.
Gopal Bargava says he wants to draw attention to the problems of domestic violence in India with the bats, which come with slogans such as ‘Police won’t intervene’. The idea is that married women are permitted to hit their husbands with the paddles if they are drunk and trying to beat them or steal family resources to pay for alcohol. Many Indian states have also launched crackdowns on alcohol in recent years by banning or restricting its sale in an attempt to prevent violence. Domestic violence groups internationally have criticised this response saying it does not take into account that women may be terrified of their husbands and additionally it can be seen as encouraging violence between couples and may end in serious injury or murder.
In 2016 the government of Tamil Nadu state said they would introduce a ban during a state election campaign after the measure proved popular with women voters who blame alcohol for much of the state’s domestic and sexual violence.
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The attorney general has been urged to examine the sentencing remarks of judge Richard Mansell QC who freed a man guilty of domestic abuse because he did not believe the victim was vulnerable.
Mustafa Bashir, 34 (pictured below) was spared a prison sentence despite forcing his wife to drink bleach, throttling her in public, and striking her with his cricket bat. Mr Bashir admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm. He was ordered to pay £1000 costs, attend a relationship course and no longer contact his wife.
The judge commented that he did not believe his wife was vulnerable because she was “an intelligent woman with a network of friends” and a college degree. Mr Bashir’s defence lawyer also argued that Mr Bashir was about to sign a contract with Leicestershire Country Cricket club if he was spared jail. Subsequently the club denied he had been offered a contract and this information had been false. The judge said he was not convinced of Mr Bashir’s remorse but he did take into account his career prospects in his sentencing.
Criticism of the judges stance is twofold firstly that many different types of women are in fact vulnerable to domestic violence and secondly that Mr Bashir’s career prospects should have been irrelevant to the sentencing.
Polly Neate chief executive of Women’s Aid said ‘It is a complete fallacy that only a certain type of woman can become a victim of domestic abuse. In fact, perpetrators target women of all ages from all sections of society’.
Sandra Horley chief executive of Refuge also commented ‘What a woman does for a job, her level of education or the number of friends she has makes no difference; for any woman, domestic violence is a devastating crime that has severe and long-lasting impacts.’ She added ‘men who abuse women do not make positive role models; it is concerning when men’s professional or celebrity status is used in court to defend them.’
A Guardian article covering this story is available here.
The Guardian have published criticisms made by the Northumbria police and crime commissioner Dame Vera Baird in response to comments made by a retiring judge Lindsey Kushnar. Judge Kushman said victims of rape who had been drinking are less likely to be believed than those who were sober. Dame Vera Baird believes the comments made by judge Kushman were ‘victim blaming’ and may stop women coming forward to the police if they were raped and had been drinking. The full article is available here