Reporter Rhitu Chatterjee has covered the story on a very personal issue for every Indian girl and woman — access to toilets. And made a report that will shock Indians living in and out the country about the condition of India.
About 70 percent of families in India don’t have access to toilets, whether in rural regions or urban slums. About 60 percent of the nation’s 1.2 billion individuals still defecate in the open. What’s more, the consequences for ladies are enormous.
Because of the polluted water of these range leads the risk to women and children to demise from childbirth related infections and reality of being attacked and raped, most infamously the gang rape of two teenage girls in rural northern India two years ago.
That incident shocked everyone in and outside of India. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to take on the crisis of lack of access to clean and safe bathrooms when he was elected two years ago. Since then, more than 1 million toilets have been planned or built.
But even where they have been built, studies have shown that the vast majority are not being used, especially in rural areas. In some cases, it’s because the toilets still aren’t connected to clean water and sewers. But more importantly, there’s been no widespread education effort to change the country’s culture of open defecation and lack of sanitation.
It’s a big issue even for women who grew up in urban, educated, middle-class households with toilets at home. As soon as you leave the security of your house, there’s no place for you to go. And even when there are toilets, like in your school growing up, they’re filthy. Most of the girls would hardly ever use their school toilet.
Almost every girls got used to it, to holding back for hours. It’s just how we grew up. But for girls in rural areas and urban slums, lack of access to clean toilets and sanitation is a big cause of dropping out of school, or not going to school at all. It’s the difference between education and independence and being locked into poverty and subjugation.
Men seem to feel no such constraints. In India, men pee everywhere, even in urban areas. Middle class, educated men — if they have to go, they’ll just stop their car and pee against a wall. Or even defecate on the sidewalk.
Modi’s initiative hasn’t been a failure. It’s important that he’s talking about the problem. At least people are finally thinking about it. But without a deeper and broader cultural change in India, the effort will only result in millions of dollars wasted in building toilets that no one uses.