Lack of Sanitation for women


An estimated 638 million Indians lack access to a toilet and are forced to use roadsides and fields.

(Source:http://articles.latimes.com/2010/mar/22/world/la-fg-india-toilets22-2010mar22)

Another article in regard to this by Kalpana Chawla – http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/Kalpana_Sharma/article2816960.ece

Every time I use a public toilet here, I am grateful for the constant water supply and the toilet paper. I may not know the statistics but I definitely know how poor sanitation is, in India. People in developed countries cannot even imagine the depth of the problem and its consequences.

I have lived most of my life in a city and can tell you the main problems regarding sanitation I have observed.

  1. Lack of abundance of clean public toilets
  2. If it is there, it is usually for men rather than females. Thanks to urbanization and springing up of malls, there are a few toilets in there.
  3. Even if there is a public toilet for men, they prefer peeing on the road sides for free leading to smelly smelly roads.
  4. If a toilet is available, it usually is stinky, lacks water supply and has not been cleaned for ages
  5. You are charged for using them which is lame. What the hell is the Government doing? Where are every citizen’s basic rights?
  6. I have seen toilets in a few local train stations but they are always locked. Duh, then why build them? Some toilets may be locked when the person in charge is away, which is mostly the case.
  7. Lot of workplaces do not have female toilets, for example police stations and a lot of government offices.
  8. Construction workers and labourers – Where do they have access to toilets? I believe the company should provide a portable toilet for such people.
  9. I shudder to think of what the poor people do. Pee and poo on the roadside?
  10. Women can pee and shit only when it is dark to escape lecherous men which in turn leads to acute discomfort ( try holding your pee for an entire day), decreased water intake and many Urinary tract infections.
  11. At least the middle class and the rich can afford toilets but you have to store water as you never get continuous water supply. What if your locality has poor water supply? Shall everyone pee less?

Apart from all these problems I can think of offhand, there are a couple of anecdotes which have greatly angered me. The Indian government should be ashamed of itself along with a lot of other people.

SJ told me that around 30 years ago, in Chennai where she went to meet her relatives, she was shocked at the lack of a proper toilet in her relative’s house. Everyone used to pee in the bathroom and used to poo in the backyard along the drain. Every morning a cleaning lady used to come to collect the shit. Not only is the entire process inhuman for cleaning lady, I thought all this used to happen only 60 years ago and the only account of such a thing I have read is in the novel “untouchables by Mulk Raj Anand”). Also it seems so unhygienic and so inconvenient.

RD told me that in her house in the village, they had no toilet as well. There used to be a pump in the only room in her house and they had to shower and pee there. There was no separate bathroom and they all used to sleep in the same room. If you needed to shower or pee, you had to wait till all the men left the house as it is ‘too impolite’ to ask them to vacate the room for you to pee. It was worse during periods but then that is another post. All the women had to get up very early in the morning before sunrise and walk almost a kilometer to poo near the trees. You had to carry your own water. You could not defecate for the rest of the day nor during the night as it was not safe and no one would accompany you to the outskirts of the village for excretion in the night. They finally built a toilet on the upper storey in the house but then it has no water supply. You had to carry buckets of water yourself. Her dad never used to help them carry water even if she was unwell with the argument – “you want to use it, then why should I carry water for you”. He initially opposed even the construction of the toilet, his argument being, “I go out to work, I don’t need to use it”.

I don’t know why so many people oppose the construction of toilets in their houses. It is most inconvenient for women, so the men don’t seem to give a damn about it. Anyway, a woman’s life is meant for suffering.

The government which does not even bother about water supply to the villages. I was shocked by the condition of the villages when I visited them. I had assumed that the government supplied water to all places in India but apparently not.  Everyone digs their own well or gets a bore well pump if they can afford it. Life is not about filling your Swiss bank accounts. What is the point of 64 years of independence if  the most basic needs of the people are not met and our government just does not care *sigh*.

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3 thoughts on “Lack of Sanitation for women

  1. In Haryana there was a campaign encouraging young women and their families to refuse marriage proposals from families where there were no toilets. Sometimes when they are creating awareness about building toilets, they make it an issue of a woman’s modesty… I guess because her convenience is not seen as important enough.

    1. This is one more thing I never understood .The reluctance to talk about toilets even in cities. People are hesitant to ask where toilets are, go to toilets where a group of people are standing nearby or to request to use it in their friends house.
      I think I heard somewhere about that campaign. Was it successful? Doubtful if parents are too keen on getting their daughters off. That’s the last thing they are gonna see.

      1. I admit even I was reluctant to ask to use the toilet in someone else’s house if I were visiting them when i was young. Those were like dirty topics you are not supposed to talk about kinda thing. I was once surprised when a guest just said and rushed into her host’s toilet and admired her. I think only later on I tried and overcame my inhibitions

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