New Delhi, June 02, 2014 (PPI-OT): UNICEF estimates that almost 594 million —nearly 50 percent of India’s population — defecates in the open, with the situation particularly acute in impoverished rural areas such as the Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh.
Carolyne Wheeler of the non-governmental organisation WaterAid, which has carried out research on the issue in Uttar Pradesh, said around a third of women have no other option but to relieve themselves after the sun sets — usually accompanied by a friend who keeps watch in case of trouble.
“It is the time when a woman is most vulnerable, exposed and the idea that such number of women are taking this daily risk to relieve themselves is shocking to us,” Wheeler told a foreign news agency. The lack of private toilet facilities is a problem recognised across the political spectrum.
“I am not generally afraid of open fields, of forests, snakes or local wildlife but I am nervous when I go out to relieve myself in the fields,” she said.
The abduction, gang-rape and lynching of two teenage girls as they went to relieve themselves last Tuesday have added a terrifying new dimension to their daily ordeal.
Maharani Devi, whose family earns a meagre living as farm labourers, said younger women were often harassed by men, and never went into the wheat and peppermint fields alone. “Ever since this incident we are now even more scared than before,” said Devi, 40, whose three-room house, like most in the district, has no toilet.
“It’s really not good, most women are reluctant even going with just one companion,” the mother of five told media. “Some younger women who used to go out to the farms to give food or water to the men in the afternoon have (now) even stopped,” said 75-year-old Om Vati.
The murder of the two teenagers, aged 12 and 14, has generated headlines in India and beyond in an echo of the uproar over the fatal gang-rape of a student on a bus in Delhi in
When a reporter asked Uttar Pradesh’s socialist Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav about the incidence of rapes in the state, he responded: “You haven’t been harmed, have you? No, right? Great. Thank you.” But he later termed the attack “unfortunate” and called for fast-track courts for speedy justice.
The two girls belonged to a low caste in India’s social hierarchy system, which is still deeply entrenched in rural areas.
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