Join 3,494 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The Invisible Needs of Women
March 17, 2011 11:23 AM   Subscribe

"No Toilet, No Bride": Count the number of public toilets for women in India, or the availability of something as basic as low-cost sanitary napkins, and the invisibility of women’s needs becomes apparent." Private toilets may increase in number: "There are signs of change, though, and one of the most surprising may be in the matrimonial market. Four years ago, the Haryana government started its "No Toilet, No Bride" campaign, painting walls across the state with the slogan: 'I won’t allow my daughter to marry into a home without toilets.'
posted by emhutchinson (34 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
AHHHH I love this because I am super-interested in the ways in which the provision of something like public toilets changes the gendered dynamics of public space and enables a huge number of social changes! Erika Rappaport writes about this in Shopping for Pleasure, about British department stores, and she points out--as the above does--that in a society with no places of public rest or refreshment for women, women simply cannot go out. So in this historical example, the advent of women's restrooms made public wife for women possible. UGH, I love this campaign. I love this topic!
posted by liketitanic at 11:35 AM on March 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


Are the toilets in houses separated by men and women? Otherwise, I don't get how that's a special problem for women.
posted by DU at 11:41 AM on March 17, 2011


public wife? I like that slip =)
posted by LoopyG at 11:41 AM on March 17, 2011


AHH PUBLIC WIFE <3
posted by liketitanic at 11:43 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are the toilets in houses separated by men and women? Otherwise, I don't get how that's a special problem for women.

No, the houses don't have toilets at all.
posted by liketitanic at 11:44 AM on March 17, 2011


"Are the toilets in houses separated by men and women? Otherwise, I don't get how that's a special problem for women."

From the article - "Kusumpur has almost no private toilets and only one public toilet for every 500 women."

So, no, private toilets aren't separated by men and women - they just barely exist.
posted by brozek at 11:44 AM on March 17, 2011


Otherwise, I don't get how that's a special problem for women.

Because it's extremely trivial for a man to pee anywhere. Also, men don't bleed for 5 days out of every month. Sure, everyone's crapping in a ditch, but women have to deal with the no toilet thing several times a day.

If you've ever been camping with lady bits, you'd understand.
posted by phunniemee at 11:45 AM on March 17, 2011 [15 favorites]


Sanitary napkins and girls toilets with doors and seperate stalls have been found to have a greater impact on secondary school attendance than any amount of technology. Digging for the cites.
posted by infini at 11:45 AM on March 17, 2011 [19 favorites]


So it's a campaign to increase toilets. Not a campaign for women's rights, like the intro would lead one to believe.
posted by DU at 11:46 AM on March 17, 2011


In a 2009 study, the Center for Civil Society, a nonprofit organization, estimated that the capital had only 132 public toilets for women, many of them barely functioning, compared with 1,534 for men.

The public toilets are separated, and apparently women only get 10% of them.

It also found that reproductive tract infections were 70 percent more prevalent among women who lacked access to such hygienic supplies for that time of the month.

Did the NY Times really just use 'time of the month'? Really?
posted by jacquilynne at 11:47 AM on March 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


Man. I say this a lot but: in my house I turn the tap and clean, drinkable water comes out of it every single time. I have no idea how. I flush the toilet, and I don't even know where it goes. I just pay my taxes and somebody takes care of that for me.

It is so goddamn great.
posted by mhoye at 11:49 AM on March 17, 2011 [37 favorites]


So it's a campaign to increase toilets. Not a campaign for women's rights, like the intro would lead one to believe.

Its both. A woman's right to privacy and comfort. A woman's right to not have to spend five days isolated (as unclean) in a dirty shack away from teh main house or in a special room (particularly in some regions, my ex mother in law followed this custom including not entering the kitchen for the whole period. You are also barred from most temples)

Women are now asking for toilets built inside teh compound before they'll marry. People are applauding this.

From the Times of India, March 22nd 2009


Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research, an NGO working for women, says the campaign is a step in the right direction because many cases of sexual assault in villages occur when women go out alone to defecate. "While men and children can go any time, women have to do so under cover of darkness. This move may go a long way in preventing many such instances," says Kumari.

posted by infini at 11:53 AM on March 17, 2011 [10 favorites]


So it's a campaign to increase toilets. Not a campaign for women's rights, like the intro would lead one to believe.

As has been said, it's both, but I think the biggest gain will be for women, because they pay the highest price for inadequate toilet access.
posted by Forktine at 11:56 AM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


No toilet, no bride
No toilet, no bride!
No toilet, no bride
No toilet, no bride!

/Bob Marley
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:58 AM on March 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


mhoye, I tend to go off on an eye-bulging rant in that direction whenever someone whines about how "icky" tap water is. Can they not see that it represents the very pinnacle of human civilization?

There should be an angelic chorus every time you turn a tap on!
posted by CaseyB at 12:01 PM on March 17, 2011 [15 favorites]


Cites for school attendance improvement linked to sanitary napkins

Ghana


India

There's lots more found in the search.

(Look ma, its a global thing :) sorry but as a menstruating woman who has wandered through many third world rural locales without running water, I get excited about this stuff.
posted by infini at 12:02 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's amazing how often the simple needs for people are a big hassle to be recognized as needs, let alone actually put into place.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:28 PM on March 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Considering that Haryana has some of the worst toilet conditions in the entire country (in my experience anyway), the fact that they started this effort is a good sign for all of India.
posted by aletheia at 12:48 PM on March 17, 2011


I've wondered about this. I've shopped at many Indian grocery stores in Santa Clara and Sunnyvale and have never seen a package of pads or tampons offered. They offer plenty of other personal care products like soaps, lotions and hair dyes etc., but no feminine hygiene products.
posted by dmvs at 12:57 PM on March 17, 2011


I turn the tap and clean, drinkable water comes out of it every single time. I have no idea how.

Now you can!

Mr. Huler lives near me. The creeks and roads are ones I see every day. He talks to people I've talked to. (But I've not met him personally.)

His book could have been called Infrastructure for Interested Citizens (Who Are Definitely Not Dumb).
posted by ES Mom at 12:59 PM on March 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've wondered about this. I've shopped at many Indian grocery stores in Santa Clara and Sunnyvale and have never seen a package of pads or tampons offered. They offer plenty of other personal care products like soaps, lotions and hair dyes etc., but no feminine hygiene products.

Very simple reason. Quality and price. The personal care products are all imported and/or Indian (or south asian) brands that people get used to and often prefer as they're formulated for hair/skin etc. But sanitary napkins in India suck big time. No reason to import or sell something you can pick up at Walgreens.
posted by infini at 1:12 PM on March 17, 2011


A friend of mine traveled through India a couple of years ago, and mentioned to me the problem of no public restrooms for women. I was completely horrified; I'm the type of person who gets paranoid if I don't know where the next bathroom is, and almost always end up using a public restroom every time I'm out running errands (let alone out being a tourist for a full day). My husband grew up in India, but being a guy I don't think he was necessarily attuned to this issue -- I'll have to ask. I'll definitely need to be prepared for when I go for a visit.

Of course, it's not always simple to find bathrooms in other parts of the world. When I've been traveling in Europe and Asia, I can't tell you how many times I was really happy to see a McDonald's or Starbucks, because I knew they would have a public restroom. Yeah, it does suck for other reasons that they are so ubiquitous, but what a relief at times.
posted by JenMarie at 1:30 PM on March 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Isn't there a Heinlein short story about this subject?

Why, yes there is!
posted by Confess, Fletch at 1:55 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


CaseyB: "mhoye, I tend to go off on an eye-bulging rant in that direction whenever someone whines about how "icky" tap water is. Can they not see that it represents the very pinnacle of human civilization?

There should be an angelic chorus every time you turn a tap on!
"

Everything's amazing, nobody's happy.
posted by Rhaomi at 3:22 PM on March 17, 2011


I met a guy recently who told me that in India widowed women aren't eaven allowed to use a bathroom during daylight hours.

Bullshit or no?
posted by bardic at 4:34 PM on March 17, 2011


But sanitary napkins in India suck big time. No reason to import or sell something you can pick up at Walgreens.
Actually that's not really true any more. When I was growing up the only option was Stayfree which were thick and uncomfortable and didn't stick very well. Nowadays there's Whisper which is orders of magnitude better and I prefer them to the Always brand which seems most ubiquitous here. In fact, I usually devote part of one of my suitcases to a few packs of Whisper, when I come back from a trip to India.
posted by peacheater at 5:38 PM on March 17, 2011


this post depresses me. I hope this one is true, because that would be some sort of improvement.

having to weigh consequences like soiling yourself or being assaulted against going out in public is a horrifying choice.
posted by daisystomper at 6:13 PM on March 17, 2011


In my daily life as a substitute teacher in one of the larger school districts in the USA I am aware of bathroom access as an ongoing issue. Not just for me, but for little kids, believe me. Does it make a difference for kinder and first graders if they have to cross the yard? If they have a unisex bathrom within the classroom, even in a portable? You bet.

Does it matter to me if I, as a "Guest Teacher," aka sub, need a key from the office to walk 10-100 yards just to pee, and return said key within a three minute middle school passing period? You bet your pool sandals it does, baby!

However, and forever again, some girl children don't go to school, some grown up women don't leave their houses for any length of time (in which to get anything outside the home might be done) because there's no place for them to "go".

Don't even get me started on the "pad" thing; I always wear my heart on my sleeve.
posted by emhutchinson at 8:18 PM on March 17, 2011


This whole thing of women being raped going out to relieve themselves is a sad and sickening business. I don't know how the very poorest of Indians can possibly solve this problem. People who are almost middle class can build some form of toilet. But when you get to the poorest of the poor, it gets very bad. These are people who might never get properly clean.
American people who are heless Go through something similar, especially women.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:22 PM on March 17, 2011


I met a guy recently who told me that in India widowed women aren't eaven allowed to use a bathroom during daylight hours.

India is a huge and extremely diverse country (more diverse, I often think, than the USA) -- it comprises an extraordinarily vast array of cultures and communities, and any statement that purports to tell a truth that applies to all or most of India or all or most Indians should be regarded with great skepticism.

So, to answer your question, Bardic: yes, it's certainly bullshit insofar as it's misleadingly phrased. While there may (for all I know) be isolated communities in India with taboos about this, I've never heard tell of one.
posted by artemisia at 8:46 PM on March 17, 2011


Heh. Whisper is Always. ;p
posted by infini at 11:49 AM on March 18, 2011


I met a guy recently who told me that in India widowed women aren't even allowed to use a bathroom during daylight hours.

Needs context. It's probably not true if there's privacy, but it may be true, in certain areas, when there is no privacy. But really that's like saying women in the US aren't allowed to breastfeed outdoors. Depends on lots of things.
posted by zennie at 3:32 PM on March 18, 2011


So it's a campaign to increase toilets. Not a campaign for women's rights, like the intro would lead one to believe.

Um, rtfa?
posted by desuetude at 9:31 PM on March 20, 2011


Wow. And we complain when the bathrooms at work aren't perfectly clean, or there is too much air freshener. I can't imagine living in conditions like the article describes.
posted by radioamy at 9:39 AM on March 22, 2011


« Older “I want to be very frank here,” Qadhi said, his vo...  |  Babylon: Surreal Babies "Babie... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments