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Lack of toilets: A question of women’s safety
‘Access to a toilet- a basic human right, has been talked extensively and debated over a period. In addition to the impact on women’s health and dignity due to lack of toilets, another issue of concern, as consequence of absence of toilets, is an increased threat of sexual harassment, rape and other forms of violence. By going out in isolated privacy, it exposes women to this huge risk.

Apparently, it is not just in villages that women are victims of the lack of sanitation facilities. In a recent unfortunate incident that took place 20km away from Delhi, a child lost her life just because she had to go out in the open to relieve herself. The six-year-old girl fell prey to the suspected serial rapist and murderer Ravinder Kumar on July 14, 2015 after having only stepped out of her house to relieve herself. Like the many other houses at Jain Nagar, Begumpur, this little girl's house also did not have a toilet. With the houses scattered far apart and large empty spaces in between, large fields serve as toilets for the people of Begumpur. Apart from this, lack of toilets has also made teenage girls to leave school when they start menstruating because they have no privacy.

The Joint Monitoring Programme report titled “Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water: 2015 Update and MDG Assessment” released by the UN Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization said one in every three or 2.4 billion people on the planet are still without sanitation facilities, including 946 million people who defecate in the open. It said India is among the 16 countries that have reduced open defecation rates by at least 25 percentage points. In India’s case, there has been a reduction by 31 per cent in open defecation, a progress termed as ‘moderate’ by the report. The report, however, noted that in India, there has been very little change over the last 20 years in reducing open defecation among the poor.

While women form their own small groups venture out to fields for defecation, the danger of such risks remains a live one. This only gets to underline the myriad ways in which poor sanitation and lack of facilities is a greater harm to women than anyone else. Access of sanitation affects the human development and the growth of a nation. There has been enough awareness and progress for evaluating this issue but the challenge is still to be met squarely.

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