After the horrendous case of the Badaun rape and murder of 2 young cousins I felt just as angry, outraged and sickened as the rest of you. I sat down in front of my television set and wondered in disbelief how an act of such brutality could be committed in such a brazen and spiteful way. But what sickened me further was the next emotion which crippled me; that of being unsurprised and perplexed at how an issue with such preventable circumstances could be overlooked.
The last few years have seen a dramatic rise in the coverage of brutal gang rapes, especially within the Indian context. One by one we have been shocked senseless by reports of young women being disrespected and violated in the most vile and despicable ways. As each and every case has come up, the gradual desensitisation of our emotions and reactions to the cases has tended to snowball. We have viewed our TV screens with initial disgust, but then gone along with the rest of our lives telling ourselves that ‘this is simply an endemic circumstance within India’ and that considering that these events are occurring a world away in a foreign and somewhat puzzling circumstance, that we can’t really do anything to help. The truth of that is statement is irrevocably incorrect.
These girls faced a circumstance which was common to most in the developing world, not having access to toilet facilities. Now, you might be thinking, what does this lack of access have to do with anything? Well, on this particular occasion, along with many others which have remained undocumented by leading news networks, the lack of access to toilet facilities was a direct cause towards these girl’s deaths.
In most rural contexts throughout the developing world, the issue of defecation and menstruation are considered highly taboo. Therefore, most routinely, women choose to travel long distances which are out of sight, under the cover of darkness and in open and unprotected fields in order to relieve themselves. This poses obvious risks in environments where Gender Based Violence (GBV) is already highly prevalent within society. Women are at their most vulnerable in this circumstance and the Badaun case was the prime example.
What I am attempting to highlight here is the direct link between GBV and the lack of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities & how easy it can be to eradicate future tragedies on this base. I by no means am attempting to state that lack of access to WASH facilities are the only contributing factor to GBV, not at all, patriarchal societies, rising levels of male youth unemployment, endemic caste systems and drug and alcohol abuse are also high causal factors. However, the universal provision of access to basic toilet facilities will take drastic measures to eradicate crimes of this specific circumstance. Aid agencies around the world are currently appealing to their donor bases to understand the importance of WASH awareness and dig deep into their pockets for the provision of such. According to WaterAid it will take only $250 Australian Dollars to provide for the design and installation of 5 hygienic pit toilets for entire communities. Think about it, just a measly $250 which could have gone towards saving these 2 young girls lives.
So the next time someone asks you how the provision of access to clean water & basic sanitation facilities will change the world, remember this article.