Skip to main content

4.3% rural women faced molestation on defacating in open, 7.6% on going to market. Comparable?, asks study

By Rajiv Shah
In a sharp critique of the Government of India thinking, continuing since the UPA days, that rural women are “vulnerable to sexual assault” when they defecate in the open, a recent study carried has said that such a view only distracts policy makers “from the real social divisions, based on caste, that prevent the adoption of affordable latrines”.
Carried out jointly by scholars from Indian Statistical Institute, University of Pennsylvania and Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (RICE), and published by RICE, the study believes such a thinking only caters to the urbanite view that “if women had more decision-making power, many more households in rural India would invest in latrines.”
Based on an interview of 1,046 women, as part of the paper “Understanding open defecation in rural India: Untouchability, pollution, and latrine pits” by Diane Coffey, Aashish Gupta, Payal Hathi, Dean Spears, Nikhil Srivastav, and Sangita Vyas, the study says, “4.3% told us that while going to defecate, they had been the victim of someone attempting to molest them.”
However, ironically, the study says, “Of the same group, 7.6% reported that this had happened to them while going to the market”, underlining, “The point is not that these events are necessarily comparable. The point is that it is not a serious policy response”.
The study is based on a survey on sanitation beliefs and behavior for approximately 23,000 individuals in 3,200 households in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
Wondering by this standard should one “suggest that women should stop going to markets”, the study insists, “Ending sexual violence, ending open defecation, and ensuring social access to markets for everyone are all important goals, but they will not be resolved by the same public policy or programme.”
The study says, “Although it is true that latrines may benefit women more than men because they are expected to clean up the feces of ailing relatives and small children, women reject affordable latrines for the same reasons that men do: they, too, are concerned about ritual pollution and pit-emptying.”
The study further says, “It is no surprise, considering the restrictions on rural women’s freedom of movement, that many women express positive attitudes toward open defecation. A young daughter-in-law in Haryana, whose household owns a latrine, explained that 'the reason that [I and my sisters-in-law] go outside [to defecate] is that we get to wander a bit...you know, we live cooped up inside'.”
During the field work, the scholars say, they found government slogans, painted on walls or displayed on posters in government offices, which pointed to the apparent contradiction between practices that enforce women’s modesty and open defecation. “For instance, a common slogan in Uttar Pradesh is 'Daughters-in-law and daughters should not go outside, make a toilet in your house'."
Finding these efforts “to persuade men to build latrines by appealing to restrictive gender norms problematic”, the study underlines, “These gender norms are stifling for women and constitute an important constraint on human development in rural India. Discrimination against women and limitations on their mobility and decision making power are widely understood to contribute to poor child health.”
Asking government “dismantle, not reinforce, such norms”, the study says, “these messages give villagers the impression that latrine use is for women, but the message that the government should be sending is that latrine use is for everyone. Men’s feces as well as women’s feces spread germs that make other people sick. ”

Comments

TRENDING

Arrest of Fr Stan Swamy: UN makes public letter seeking explanation from Govt of India

Counterview Desk In a letter to the Government of India (GoI), three senior United Nations (UN) officials – Elina Steinerte, vice-chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mary Lawlor, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Fernand de Varennes, special rapporteur on minority issues – have said that the arrest of veteran activist Father Stan Swamy in October 2020 marks “the escalation of harassment the human rights defender has been subjected to since 2018.”

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Farm laws 'precursor' to free trade deal envisaged by US corporates to allow GMO

By Rajiv Shah Did the Government of India come up with the three farm laws, first rushed by promulgating ordinances in June 2020, to not just open the country’s agricultural sector to the corporate sector but also as a precursor to comply with the requirements of the United States for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), as envisaged by the outgoing US president Donald Trump?

Modi govt 'implementing' IMF-envisaged corporate takeover of Indian agriculture

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak* The surge of wealth of Indian billionaires and the Modi-led BJP government’s onslaught on poor, marginalised and farmers continue to grow simultaneously as masses face annihilating pandemic of coronavirus. There is 90 % rise of Indian billionaire’s wealth over last one decade. It is not accidental.

Differing from Ambedkar, Kancha Ilaiah holds a 'different' theory of caste system

By Banavath Aravind* I was introduced to Kancha Ilaiah’s work when I was about 20 years old. He was then in the midst of a controversy for a chapter in his book "Post-Hindu India: A Discourse in Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution", which termed the Baniya community as social smugglers. During many of his debates, I had come to notice his undeterred fighting spirit in trying to bring up certain fundamental social issues that were hitherto undiscussed. I eventually came across some of his works and started reading them silently. I’m deliberately stressing upon the word ‘silently’ here, as this was the kind of silence particularly associated with sensitive social issues like caste, religion, etc. But, as I write this essay, I feel silences on sensitive issues should be broken. Ilaiah opened up an entirely new debate that had the vigour and strength to counter the systemic Brahmanism. His methods of research were also novel in terms of going back to the roo

New trend? Riots 'expanded' to new rural areas post-2002 Gujarat carnage: Report

A VHP poster declaring a Gujarat village part of Hindu Rashtra  By Rajiv Shah  Buniyaad, a Gujarat-based civil society organization, engaged in monitoring of communal violence in the state, in a new report, “Peaceful Gujarat: An Illusion or Truth?” has said that a “new trend” has come about in communal violence in the state, where the parts of Gujarat which didn't see communal riots in 2002 are experiencing “regular bouts” of communal violence.

Fr Stan's arrest figures in UK Parliament: Govt says, Indian authorities were 'alerted'

London protest for release of Stan Swamy  By Rajiv Shah Will Father Stan Swamy’s arrest, especially the fact that he is a Christian and a priest, turn out to be major international embarrassment for the Government of India? It may well happen, if a recent debate on a resolution titled “India: Persecution of Minority Groups” in the United Kingdom (UK) Parliament is any indication. While Jesuits have protested Fr Stan's arrest in UK and US, the resolution, adopted in the Parliament, said, “This House has considered the matter of persecution of Muslims, Christians and minority groups in India”.

A new fad in India, coding-for-toddlers culture needs to be 'nipped' in the bud

By Aditya Pandey* We are all aware of the dire consequences of subjecting young kids to intense academic pressure from an early age. In India, we have coaching institutes like FIITJEE and Resonance offering programmes for 6th standard kids to prepare them for “NTSE, IJSO, PRMO and other Olympiads”. The duration of these programmes is around 175 hours – hours that could've been spent playing games and making friends instead.

More than 5,200 Gujarat schools to be closed down, merged, says govt document

RTE Forum, Gujarat, releasing fact-sheet on education By Our Representative A Gujarat government document has revealed that it is planning to close down 5,223 schools in the name of school merger. The document, dated July 20, 201 was released by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, Gujarat. It shows that the worst-affected districts because of this merger are those which are populated by marginalized communities – especially tribals, Dalits and minorities, said RTE Forum’s Gujarat convener Mujahid Nafees.

Consumption pattern, not economic shock behind 'poor' child health indicators

By Neeraj Kumar, Arup Mitra* The findings of the latest round of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) conducted in 2019-20 covering 22 States/UTs under Phase-I  present a somewhat disappointing picture of children’s health in India. Majority of the experts, based on prima facie evidence, just highlighted the deteriorating sign of child health in terms of increase in proportion of stunted and underweight children in most of the phase-I states/UTs over last two rounds of NFHS (2015-16 to 2019-20).