BANGALORE: Look around for public toilets for women in the country, for that matter in our own city, the chances are meager that you will find them. Though there are ‘Pay and Use’ Nirmala toilets, they aren’t enough and they don’t solve the problem of the lack of public toilets for women in Bangalore.
Nagalakshmi, who sells flowers in Agrahara Dasarahalli on Magadi Road says, “There are no toilets for women here. The nearest Nirmala toilet is in Tolgate and KHB Colony which is atleast 1.5 kilometres away and that too they are ‘Pay and Use’ toilets. Men can go anywhere and relieve themselves, but what about women?”
Lack of toilets does not only limit the mobility of women, but also affects women’s ability to work and their personal safety. Many rapes in rural India happen in areas where women have to walk a long distance to reach the toilet, according to an article by journalist Nilanjana S Roy.
The magnitude of the problem was such that few years ago, a toilet revolution was heralded by Indian brides. There was a campaign by the Haryana Government called ‘No Toilet, No Bride’ as part of the Total Sanitation Campaign launched by the Ministry of Rural Development. The walls in many villages were adorned with slogans such as, “Na byahun beti us ghar mein, jismein na ho shauchalaya” or won’t marry my daughter into a household which doesn’t have a toilet.
We might assume that the problems exist among only the lower strata of the society, but there are many who beg to differ. Shweta Rao, working professional said, “Even if one goes to Commercial Street or MG Road, finding toilets is a big problem. We end up going to malls just to use the restrooms. Even for the couple of toilets in the city, they are unhygienic to say the least.”
With summers, the problem gets worse as one needs to drink lots of water to keep oneself from getting dehydrated. Sridevi, who works in a PR agency said, “My work involves a lot of travelling within the city. With the temperatures going up, you can’t avoid drinking water. But, the problem is I don’t find a single public toilet to relieve myself.”
We spoke to a few corporators to find out the initiatives taken by them in this regard. Sriram Mandir ward corporator Jayaratna said, “Yes, we have had complaints on the lack of public toilets, especially for women. We have plans to build toilets near Bashyam Circle, Commercial Street, SJR College for Women in Rajajinagar within two months.”
There were some who quoted water scarcity as a hindrance. Noorjahan, corporator of Kushalnagar said, “With water problems in our ward, we have not thought of building toilets.”
If not a campaign, we want the authorities concerned to atleast give a thought to building toilets specifically for women.