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Published: Wednesday September 3, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday September 3, 2014 MYT 7:16:08 AM

Toilets a boon for poor Indian women

Safety measure: A woman sweeping near a toilet provided by Sulabh in the Hirmathala village of Mewat district in Haryana, India. 
- AFP

Safety measure: A woman sweeping near a toilet provided by Sulabh in the Hirmathala village of Mewat district in Haryana, India. - AFP

KATRA SHAHADATGANJ: Decorated with marigolds and ribbons, 108 toilets unveiled in a tragedy-hit village are a small step in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push to end open-air defecation for impoverished Indian women.

The spotlessly clean toilets were donated on Sunday to the village in northern Uttar Pradesh, where scared and vulnerable women had long been forced to trek nightly into the fields to relieve themselves.

“I believe no woman should lose her life just because she has to go out to defecate,” said Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of the sanitation charity Sulabh, which built the toilets.

“Our aim is to provide a toilet to every household in the country in the near future.”

The village made headlines around the world in May when the bodies of two schoolgirls were found hanging from a tree. They are thought to have gone out into the fields after dark because their home, like most in their district, lacked a toilet.

Police are investigating whether the cousins, aged 12 and 14, were gang-raped, although no one has been formally charged and five men initially accused are set to be released.

The incident sparked uproar in India, echoing the outrage over the fatal gang-rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi in 2012.

But the circumstances which led the schoolgirls to trek outside at night are not unusual in India. Unicef estimates that almost 594 million – or nearly 50% of India’s population – defecate in the open, with the situation acute in dirt-poor rural areas. — AFP

Tags / Keywords: toilets, India, open-air defecation, impoverished

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