Biswajeet Banerjee| The News Minute| June 3, 2014| 4.30 pm IST
The gang rape and murder of two cousins from Uttar Pradesh has spiraled into a huge social and political debate. The incident shows how vulnerable Indian women are to sexual abuse because they do not have toilets in their homes as the cousin had gone out to the farm to relieve themselves.
“There is a link between rape and having toilets in the home. Over 60 per cent of the rapes in the state occur when the victims step out to relieve themselves because they do not have toilets at their homes”, inspector-general of police Ashish Gupta said in Lucknow, the state capital of Uttar Pradesh, citing home department statistics.
“Rapes are not new in UP as every day 10 rapes are reported as per the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB). It is difficult to give protection to every woman who goes out in open to relieve themselves.” Gupta said.
In April this year four women, two of them in their teens were raped, in another north Indian state of Haryana. There women were dalits, a lower caste and rapists were Jats, a superior caste. These women too had gone to field to relieve themselves when they were attacked and raped.
Around 48 per cent of India’s population don’t have access to proper sanitation and 597 million Indians defecate in the open if needed says a recent WHO report.
In rural India, in the absence of toilets women generally go to fields to relieve themselves. They go in a group before sunrise or after nightfall. Sulabh International, an NGO that has constructed cost-effective toilet systems in slums and dense urban localities, claims that out of over 24 crore houses, only 11 crore have toilets. And out of 7,935 cities, only 160 have sewage treatment plants.
In Uttar Pradesh, one of the most backward states in India, 77 per cent villagers defecate in open.
Sulabh International founder Bindeshwar Pathak said: “Any woman defecating in the open is vulnerable and the Indian government must acknowledge the issue. Resources will only pour in then.”
Sulabh has taken up the initiative to construct toilets in 108 houses in village Katra in Baudaun where there two cousins were raped and their bodied were found hanging from a mango tree.
The link between toilet and rape has renewed the debate which the former Union Rural Development Minister Jai Ram Ramesh had initiated. In 2012 he had questioned development priorities when the 2011 census revealed that India had more mobile phones than toilets
Last year Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also advocated having toilets at home when his remark “toilet first, temple later” sparked a debate as his party, Bharatiya Janata Party, is striving to construct Lord Ram’s temple in Ayodhya.
Pathak lauded the idea and expressed his desire to work with the Modi government to ensure toilets in all homes. “I am going to write to the Prime Minister soon,” Pathak said.
There are many stories how toilets or lack of it have changed fortunes of many families.
The absence of a toilet nearly deprived a man of marital bliss in Maharajganj in Uttar Pradesh. This is the story of Priyanka Bharati, a Dalit and a Class XII student, who got married to Amarjeet Kumar of village Vishnupur Khurd in Maharajganj district of Lucknow on May 2, 2012. By Priyanka’s own admission, she was shocked to learn that women in her marital home had to defecate in the open.
For the first two days she tried to adjust with the situation, before deciding to return to her mother’s home.
This was not the first incident. Recently, two more young brides in Uttar Pradesh refused to go to their in-laws’ houses after marriage because those homes too did not have toilets.
The three returned only after toilets were constructed by in-laws.
In Uttar Pradesh, the Total Sanitation Campaign was launched in the State in collaboration with the Centre in 2002. The whole project now stinks as much as the toilets. TSC was told that 82.5 per cent households have toilets but the data collected during Census in 2011 shows that just 22 per cent households have toilets.
“This data clearly proves that the public money has been flushed away in the toilets. Initial reports suggest that 42,186 toilets were constructed only on papers,” Alok Ranjan, a senior official said.
Read more here – http://www.thenewsminute.com/stories/Where%20are%20the%20toilets%20the%20Uttar%20Pradesh%20government%20promised%3F#.U48T3Ba0bwJ