Lockdown spares Czech women an Easter whipping

The coronavirus lockdown has led to the suspension of a controversial Czech Easter tradition where men lightly whip women with a switch made of willow branches to ensure fertility.

It is an Easter Monday ritual of pagan origin, popular in rural areas. Men go door-to-door, singing a ditty and whipping women’s legs and buttocks.

They are rewarded with painted eggs and shots of plum brandy.

However, for many Czech women the ritual is far from harmless.

“It hurt like hell,” said Ladka Bauerova, who grew up in Prague, not a village.

“Even as a child I felt acute embarrassment at the heavy-handed symbolism (you’re giving men your eggs to stop them from being violent!?) It just wasn’t right,” she told the BBC.

It can be seen either as a quaint rural custom with roots in pagan fertility rituals or an unacceptably sexist reminder of the power of the patriarchy.

On Easter Monday, male villagers spend the morning going from house to house, whipping the village women.

Frankly as the brandy-fuelled morning wears on, their ability to administer any kind of physical punishment is somewhat diminished.

But wherever you stand on the tradition, it’s not likely to be happening much this year as Interior Minister Jan Hamacek has urged Czech men to leave their whips at home.

The Czech Republic has so far been only lightly affected by coronavirus – there were just 89 new cases on Sunday and a total of 139 Covid-19 deaths.

However, the authorities are urging people to keep their guard up, including with the compulsory wearing of protective masks.

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