People attending nature’s calls is a common sight in Bangalore. But imagine instead of spotting men lined up against a wall or hiding surreptitiously next to a tree, coming across a woman peeing on the road. This is not a common sight yet, but it very well could be, with the abysmally low number of public toilets for women in this city. The city with a population of 8.5 million people, has about 500 public toilets, which makes it one toilet for around 17000 persons.
According to a sample survey conducted by Janaagraha, where they surveyed a total of 396 arterial and collector roads, 90 out of the 198 wards did not have any public toilets.
However, talk to any woman on the street, and they say they’d rather not pee at all than use a public toilet. “What are we supposed to do? We go in the open, since there aren’t any toilets available,” says Lakshmi, a pourakarmika.
However, the general consensus is that it’s not about the quantity but about the quality. “We had conducted safety walks across the city, and we noticed that many areas in Bangalore do not have toilets at all. Forget enough toilets, I wish the ones we have in the city were usable. They are kept in inhumane conditions and it’s just not worth having them in the first place. I really don’t care if they build more toilets or not, unless they start maintaining the ones they do have,” says Shagun D, an activist with Vimochana, an NGO working for women’s welfare.
Pooja Ravi, a content writer, would rather walk into a restaurant and ask to use their toilet than use a public toilet. “Of course, we need more public toilets. Men pee on the road all the time. Where do we go? And I wish there were more toilets along the highways as well.”
Parvathy Jaya, a media professional, shares similar sentiments. “Oh yes, we do need more public toilets in the city. But more than toilets, we need clean toilets. The ones that we have currently are unusable because of the condition they are in right now. The stink is unbearable. If I need to use a toilet, I just try to hold it for as long as possible or search for the nearest restaurant,” she says.
Recalling a horrifying experience city-based copywriter Loreto Maimoni says, “This one time I tried to use the one at the airport but I ran out because of the stink and just waited till I got home.”
But holding urine for long periods of time can lead to many other complications. City-based doctors say that it is dangerous and can have adverse effects on the health. “If you keep yourself from peeing often, the body will eventually lose its ability to know when it’s time to go. And the longer you hold your urine, the bladder will turn into a breeding ground for bacteria, which will lead to infections,” says Dr Sowmya D, a general physician.
The need for hygienic methods of disposal of sanitary napkins at these public toilets was also one of the concerns cited by some of the women. “Apart from providing water, these public toilets also need to ensure that they allow for hygienic disposal of sanitary napkins. I think it’s high time a woman’s dignity was given some importance,” says Anuradha C, a sales executive. With an urban population that completely rejects the public toilet system and an underprivileged section with no access to clean amenities, the city is facing a grave situation, when it comes to public toilets.