Wednesday, June 4, 2014

World News: Gang rape case in India highlights lack of toilets, safety

Rampant sexual violence is a form of terrorism for women and girls in India. A gang rape of two teenage girls whose bodies were hung from a mango tree in their village made global news. 

The Associated Press reports that in Lucknow, India, there are millions of families who have no toilet at home and people have to go outside to relieve themselves. One night, the two girls walked out together into the wild bamboo fields 10 or 15 minutes from their straw-and-mud huts. 

In the dark, the girls were attacked, gang raped and killed, the AP reported. The assailants then hung their bodies from the mango tree. The horrific attack has brought the attention to a widespread problem that threatens women's safety: the lack of toilets. The AP reported the UN's figures showing 665 million of India's 1.2 billion population don't have access to a private toilet or latrine.

Some villages have public bathrooms, but many women avoid using them because they are in a state of disrepair and because men often hang around and harass the women. A member of the Sulabh Sanitation and Social Reform Movement - a group that helps build low-cost toilets across India - estimates the country needs about 120 million more toilets. Since the attack, the group has decided to construct toilets in 108 houses in the girls' village of Katra Sadatganj in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

The incident also shows the conflict between lower and higher caste members of society. The 14-and 15-year-old cousins were Dalits, at the bottom of Hinduism's caste system, making them vulnerable to attacks from men, particularly from higher castes. Women generally gather in groups to go to the fields to relieve themselves. To avoid embarrassment, they go at dawn and late at night - male family members usually don't go with women since modesty is a major factor.

The AP reported that an uncle went out to check on his cows and heard screams from the girls being dragged away by four men, who threatened the uncle with a gun. The uncle told a local newspaper he was scared and fled, something he wished he didn't do. In April, two Dalits women and two teenagers were raped in the northern state of Haryana by Jats men, a superior caste.

What more can be done to protect women and girls from these attacks? The massive sanitation project has only provided 22 percent of homes in Uttar Pradesh with toilets. The village waits for more toilets, and a local women's rights organization put out an advisory for women with the primary suggestion to move in big groups.


  1. this is terrible. i couldnt imagine this.

  2. Sorry to say, but I believe this is typical urban-dweller reasoning: lack of toilets. They could of course build toilets (simple wood shacks as they are still used in many parts of Europe or the Americas too!) close to home. The reason they wonder so far is ... to fertilize their fields. They do this since thousands of years in many areas. And depending on where their respective family patch is, some are more in danger than others. Building toilets without giving fertilization another thought will simply lead to bad harvests!