For Indian Women, No Toilets, No Wedding

What happens when toilets become a bargaining tool for women engaged to be married? For so many women in India, having indoor latrines in their prospective husbands’ homes have spurred some action towards this issue.

An ad campaign tackling sanitation is currently creating awareness all over India. The Total Sanitation Campaign is based on a real-life story of Anita Narre, who left her husband two days after the wedding upon discovering that her home was not equipped with a toilet. While there has been awareness of how crucial this issue is, it hasn’t been fully addressed until The Total Sanitation Campaign was implemented in villages. According to a report done by the World Health Organization(WHO), out of 1.1 billion population worldwide, India’s population make up 59% who defecate out in the open. Sanitation in India has been a problem for quite some time, mostly due to the cost of installing proper facilities in homes, but the women are fighting back.

In the Sehore district, where according to a 2011 Indian census, only 32% of households have latrines, the demand has increased since then. Numerous women have made it a point to demand indoor latrines before consenting to be married. Some women have even gone so far as to request for pictures of toilets already installed in their prospective homes or the groom holding one as proof. While this idea may seem strange, the need for proper sanitation has dramatically increased due to the fact that women have endured enough suffering to warrant a drastic change of how they are treated.

For most people, having indoor latrines is common, while for Indian women, it’s a luxury that most cannot afford but a necessity for their well-being. Oftentimes, women who need to relieve themselves either use the outdoors or have to rely on unsanitary conditions. Another challenge women face are the dangers of finding safe areas to use since they are subject to harassment by men. What’s worse is that women either have to relieve themselves very early in the morning or late in the evening to prevent being harassed. As a result of trying to control their bodily functions because of this, it takes a toll on their bodies and increases their mortality rate.

The Total Sanitation Campaign affects both men and women because the men control household economies and decisions. While women are not seen as the dominating force when it concerns economic decisions in the home, especially in rural villages, that attitude is slowly but surely changing with the help of this initiative. Indian men in villages where this initiative has become successful like in the Sehore district, are seeing that women are ready to fight back when it concerns their health and their future. That change in mentality is crucial if this campaign is to become the litmus test for tackling gender issues. That’s my view on this, what’s yours?

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