India's Sanitation Crisis Affecting Women

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Over 600 Mil People, Roughly 53% of Indian Households, Still Use Public Streets and Fields as Bathrooms and the Women of India Who are Paying the Highest Price

The shortages of basic bathroom facilities in India leaves women and girls with no option but to venture out, often late at night, to relieve themselves in the open. It is on their way to and from this journey that they face the risk of horrific, even deadly, attacks of sexual violence. The world was exposed to this shocking reality when two teenage cousins in Uttar Pradesh were found raped and hanging from a tree just this past summer.

Even though the issue is especially acute in the rural areas, girls and women in the urban slums have horror stories about local LOCM +4.1% men staring at them, threatening them and shouting lewd comments while they venture out to defecate in the open. “We have had one-on-one fights with thugs in order to save our daughters from getting raped,” one mother described to researchers of a 2011 study funded by WaterAid and DFID-funded Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity. “It then becomes a fight that either you [the thug] kill me to get to my daughter or you back off.”

In addition to the horrifying threat of assault and harassment, not being able to access toilets has a series of health implications for women and girls from urinary tract to kidney infections, not to mention the sheer stress of not being able to access a bathroom during the monthly menstrual cycle.

This issue denies women from being able to contribute to the economies of their countries. The non-profit Water.org points out that in addition to barriers such as glass ceilings, the lack of adequate sanitation prohibits women from accomplishing “little more than survival.”

Today in India, it is easier to get a mobile phone than find a toilet. How can a country that has more Internet users than the U.S., still not provide its citizens with decent latrines? The issue of building accessible bathrooms is something that can be resolved right now and right away, and it appears as though progress is on the horizon.

The country’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the issue in a landmark Independence Day speech, vowing that his government would put “toilets before temples,” and eliminate open defecation. And last week, the organization Sulabh International unveiled 108 cheap new toilets in the same village where the two girls were raped and hung.

Source: Forbes

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