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| Last Updated:01/03/2014

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Absence of toilets expose rural women to sexual assaults

TNN, 20 February 2014


KANPUR: i) A 14-year-old girl was allegedly raped by five youths in Chandpur village of Kanpur Dehat on the night of February 8, 2014. The girl along with her six-year-old sister had gone to defecate in the nearby fields.


ii) A 16-year-old girl ended her after being allegedly raped by a village goon and his aides on September 26,2013 in Kanpur Dehat. The girl had gone out to answer nature's call when she was gang-raped.


These are but two cases where in lack of proper toilet facilities led to the crime in the rural pockets of Kanpur Dehat. In absence of proper toilets, women and girls have no option but to go out in the open to answer nature's call.


As many as 95,000 toilets and 58 'Mahila Sulabh Shauchalaya' were constructed across 612 gram panchayats under the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan scheme. However, due to lack of maintenance the toilets in most of the gram panchayats of Kanpur Dehat are in shambles.


A case in point the dilapidated structure in the vicinity of Rasoolabad village of Kanpur Dehat district. It looks more like a garbage dumping site from a distance. A closer look at the structure, however, leads to the realization that it's actually a 'mahila sulabh shauchalaya'. This is just one of the many 'mahila sulbah shauchalaya' in the district that needs urgent facelift. However, acute shortage of funds has defeated the purpose of 'Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan Yojana' that aims at making villages free from open defecation.


Police officials are of the view that these cases could have been averted had the authorities provided a facelift to toilets in the district under the Centrally-sponsored Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) or Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA) scheme started in 2001.


According to sources, seven cases of sexual assault were reported from the district in January last year. "Six cases of sexual assault took place when the women went out to defecate in open. On an average, annually, nearly 95% cases of rape and molestation were reported when the victims had gone out of their homes to attend nature's call," a senior police official said.


"We are collecting data on incidents of rape and molestation of women and girls when they had gone out of their homes to attend nature's call," he said.


Social activists say that these were the cases that were reported. However a large number of such cases still go unreported. "The figures will certainly escalate if proper survey is done," says Neelam Chaturvedi, president of a social organization working for the uplift of women.


Chaturvedi further says that most of the rape cases in rural pockets go unreported owing to social constraints. "During our recent survey in rural pockets, we came across many such victims, who confided about them being sexually harassed when out in the field to relieve themselves and that they did not inform their elders," she says. The relatives of a 20-year-old Derapur village girl, who committed suicide recently after being harassed by a local goon alleged that she was continuously being stalked by the accused whenever she went out of the house to answer nature's call.


Newly wed and unmarried girls are the worst sufferers. "The newly married fear backlash from husband or in-laws while parents of unmarried girls are worried about the daughter's future," said a social activist.


Earlier, the authorities used to provide Rs 2,200 to construct toilets. Now it has been enhanced to Rs 10,000 to each family irrespective of their economic background.


The Panchayati Raj department had initially outsourced the maintenance and cleanliness of the toilets. However, the department is now unable to maintain it owing to financial crunch.


"Soon a survey will be done to ensure that every village has a proper toilet," Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA) scheme campaign in-charge and district panchayati Raj officer RS Singh said.