Thomas Clasen

Women, who need safe sanitation the most, are often left out of crucial sanitation-related decisions at households, a study says.

Does gender matter when it comes to sanitation? Apparently, it does. Women suffer more than men in case of poor access to sanitation that compromises their health, mobility and freedom. Since there is a possibility of being sexually assaulted or harassed while answering nature’s call in the open, they hesitate to drink enough water to avoid urinating leading to various diseases like urinary tract infections, heat stroke, kidney infections, etc. Women often hold the urge to defecate due to the lack of access to sanitation leading to chronic constipation and intestinal damage.

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Maybe beliefs that faeces were impure also caused people to look at the practice of containing faeces in the latrine pit in the house as a ‘sin’ is one reason but there are so many others.

Of the one billion defecating in the open globally 66% live in India, of which 92% live in rural areas. Despite concerted government efforts for the last three decades to promote sanitation, India continues to lag behind in terms of access to basic sanitation facilities. Odisha in eastern India, is among the lowest performing states in terms of toilet coverage, and recent evidence shows that open defecation is high in the state. Even among households who have toilets, many do not use them.

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