Rashi Aditi Ghosh/Zee Research Group
As India laments the tragic loss of two young girls, gang raped and murdered last week, abysmally poor sanitation capability points to ominous vulnerability of women in rural India, especially in the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP).
Nearly 77 per cent of the rural households in Uttar Pradesh (UP) practice open defecation and ironically the state also has second highest rape cases against Scheduled Caste women.
Serious lack of sanitation facilities within the premises in rural UP is not just hampering the health and hygiene of the people but it is also maligning the sanctity of Scheduled Caste women residing in the villages.
A gruesome gang-rape and murder of two girls in Badaun (UP) on last Friday is one such dreadful act that many believe might have been averted if only there was no need to defecate in the open.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), UP recorded 285 rape cases (second highest) of Scheduled Caste women in 2012.The number was even higher at 397 in 2011.
While the blame game over the loss is on, data regarding the state’s (UP) sanitation facility presents a highly worrisome scenario.
According to a 2011 Census of India report, 69.3 per cent of the rural households in India don’t have toilets and much greater than the national average 78 per cent of the rural households in UP lack a basic facility of toilet within their premises. In 2001 the situation was even worse with 80.8 per cent rural households in UP with no toilets within the premises.
Out of this 78 per cent households in rural UP merely 1.1 per cent use public toilets and 77 per cent defecate in open. In comparison to rural households in UP, urban households have much better sanitation facilities. As per Census report 16.9 per cent households in urban UP don’t have toilets out of which 2.1 per cent use public toilets and 14.8 defecate in open.
A report by Sanitation and Hygiene applied research for equity (2011) in this regard says that, “Access to water and sanitation services and the fulfillment of these fundamental human rights are experienced differently by men and women. Women without water supplies and toilets within their homes are potentially vulnerable to sexual violence when travelling to and from public facilities, when using public facilities and when they have to defecate in the open in the absence of any amenities.”
Sanitation and hygiene applied research for equity (2011) is a program that aims to develop and adopt new and existing knowledge of policies and practices to improve sanitation and hygiene services and behaviour in poor households. It was initiated by Department for International Development. (United Kingdom) and its report based on a survey in Delhi shows that 66.3 per cent of women who defecated in open faced verbal sexual harassment and 32.6 per cent of women faced physical sexual harassment while defecating in open.
The country overall has the highest number of people (597 million people) practicing open defecation in the world. (UN report 2014 titled the Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation)
As a matter of fact not just Scheduled Caste women but overall women are unsafe in Uttar Pradesh. NCRB data also states that during 2012 UP recorded the third highest cases of crime against women.