Do women even go out?

From PRI’s The World in November 2014:

More than half of women [in Bombay aka Mumbai] don’t have indoor toilets. In a typical Mumbai slum, there are something like six bathrooms for 8,000 women. Sometimes those bathrooms have collapsed, have dogs or rats living in them, or simply have no water.

Sarita, who works as a cook, gets to a bathroom maybe three times a day — if she’s lucky. She wakes up at 5:30 every morning to line up to use the facilities.

“I leave home at seven and I have to wait until I get back home — sometimes it’s nine hours, sometimes 12,” she says. “My stomach hurts when I hold it, but what can I do? Men can go anywhere, but where can a woman go?”

Another thing having to hold it does? It motivates people to drink as little as possible – which is very unhealthy, especially in a hot climate.

According to government figures, Mumbai has 3,536 public restrooms that women share with men, but not a single women’s-only facility — not even in some police stations and courts. Enter the Right To Pee movement, a coalition of NGOs fighting for more — and safer — toilets for women.

There’s a mistake there. If there’s not a single women’s-only facility, then the rest of the sentence should read “not even in police stations and courts” – it can’t be some police stations and courts when you’ve just said there’s not a single one in the whole city.

Deepa Pawar, an activist from a women’s rights organization called Vacha, has collected horror stories over the past three years about how the lack of toilets hurts women in Mumbai.

Some women get bladder and urinary tract infections from holding in their urine, while others simply don’t drink water all day to avoid the bathroom. Many women are raped or assaulted each year when they leave their homes to find a toilet, and those who find toilets safely can face other risks — scorpions, rats, infections.

And there are the larger societal issues as well: “The number one reason that girls drop out of school is because there are no toilets,” Pawar points out.

“We want to be able to take care of our basic needs like men do, and not like animals,” she says. “These are basic, human rights — the right to dignity and the right to mobility.”

Girls drop out of school because there are no toilets. It’s enough to make you despair.

Pawar says the government simply lacks the will to fix the problem. “The government has manpower, resources, strategy, authority,” she says, but no accountability.

And along with apathy comes gender bias: “When we approached the authorities, they asked us, ‘Do women even go out? Where do they have to go?’”

Ah well, good point – women are basically just things that cook and spread their legs, and they need to do that at home. Problem solved.

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