Monday, July 17, 2017

A shameful national policy

A post from Facebook dated June 20th. I had posted this after a man was beaten to death in Rajasthan for protesting photos being taken of the women in his family defecating in public. Jan Swasthya Abhiyan's press release on the incident can be found here .

The 'naming and shaming' tactics being used in Swatch Bharat Abhiyan (SBA) are taking Indian polity to a new low. Whistling at defecating women is now common. Recently, when activists went to meet the District Magistrate in Sitapur to ask her to help protect their village from submergence (by the Sharada river) this monsoon, she asked them what they were doing to help SBA. Any and all tactics, including murder, are being used to bring down open defecation.

For those who might say - 'Well, what else can be done? The only way left to make people use toilets is to shame them' I ask, who is getting shamed? Again, it is the women. Most men couldn't care less if you photograph them peeing in public - maybe they'll even pose for you. And let's not forget Ravinder, who was beaten to death for objecting to this right in the nation's capital.

I don't think any woman would object to having a convenient toilet to use - poor women spend their lifetime trying to manage their urination, defecation and menstruation in horrific conditions. But do they own space to build a toilet and have sufficient water to maintain it? Who is going to clean it? And how do they convince their menfolk that it is necessary? I know women who have fought battles with their families and are doing whatever it takes to keep their toilets working - not every woman can do that. There are solutions, but very few governments have been able to make them work at a large scale. Instead, they are choosing vigilantism, a cheap and expedient method for them but one that is having a devastating impact on society at large.

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