An overwhelming percentage of rural women who are forced to wait till nightfall to relieve them face the risk of being raped, the government has admitted ahead of a conference to review sanitation situation in the country.
“Sexual harassment and rape are a risk for many women who without a household toilet have to wait until nightfall to seek the privacy of darkness outside to relieve themselves,” says the Centre’s note on ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ distributed to state ministers for discussion as they meet on Monday.
The note prepared by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation emphasised the need for sanitation, saying while having a toilet is important for everyone, access to safe, clean toilets brings particular benefits to women and girls.
“Freed from the need to defecate in the open, they no longer have to suffer the indignity, humiliation and often verbal and physical abuse when relieving themselves,” it says.
“Women and girls don’t need toilet facilities just for defecation; they also need privacy and dignity when menstruating. The need for sanitation facilities within homes and in public places, which meet women’s physical and psychological demands, cannot be over-emphasised,” it says.
The Ministry has prepared the note after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his Independence Day speech, laid stress on “dignity of women” and pitched for making provisions for building toilets wherein women should not defecate in open.
The note says separate toilets at school mean more girls are likely to attend and continue even after puberty to complete their education.
“There is an immediate need to provide adequate number of toilets separately for boys and girls in all schools of the country,” it says.
The Centre is vigorously pushing the agenda of sanitation to end the menace of open defecation in the country by 2019, the 150 birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.