Equality, Dignity and the Link Between Gender-Based Violence and Sanitation

We have a moral imperative to end open defecation and a duty to ensure women and girls are not at risk of assault and rape simply because they lack a sanitation facility.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Message for the World Toilet Day

About 2.5 billion people do not have access to proper sanitation, including toilets or latrines, with dramatic consequences on human health, dignity and security, the environment, and social and economic development.

A WaterAid study in Lagos, Nigeria showed that a quarter of women who lacked access to sanitation had first or second hand experience of harassment, threats of violence or physical assault, linked to a lack of a private toilet. Also, according to Takepart  Infographic published  in April 2014,  it showed 16 countries where the most people lack proper sanitation, including but not limited to those who defecate in the open air:

India, 818 million people or 65% of the population.
China, 607 million people or 44% of the population.
Indonesia, 109 million people or 43% of the population.
Nigeria, 103 million people or 57% of the population.
Pakistan, 98 million people or 52% of the population.
Bangladesh, 75 million people or 48% of the population.
Ethiopia, 71 million people or 80% of the population.
Congo, 50 million people or 72% of the population.
Brazil, 39 million people or 19% of the population.
Tanzania, 32 million people or 68% of the population.
Kenya, 27 million people or 64% of the population.
Sudan, 27 million people or 73% of the population.
Philippines, 22 million people or 22% of the population.
Vietnam, 22 million people, or 24% of the population.
Ghana, 20 million people or 74% of the population.
Nepal, 20 million people or 71% of the population.



Furthermore, having to defecate openly infringes on human safety and dignity. This holds particularly true for women and girls, who loose privacy and face shame having to defecate in public, or – after painfully holding their bladder and bowels all day – risk attack by waiting until night falls.  Where toilets do exist, additional inequalities present in usability. Toilets generally remain inadequate for populations with special needs, such as the disabled and elderly, and women and girls requiring facilities to manage menstrual hygiene. Without accessible toilets for these populations, they remain excluded from opportunities to attend school and gain employment.

This year World Toilet Day theme  ““Equality, Dignity and the Link Between Gender-Based Violence and Sanitation”  seeks to put a spotlight on the threat of sexual violence that women and girls face due to the loss of privacy as well as the inequalities that are present in usability.  One synonymous case was of the two Indian girls, aged 14 and 16,  who were cousins from the Dalit community, a caste at the bottom of Hinduism’s established hierarchy. The girls had walked for 10 to 15 minutes from their mud and straw huts. They never returned; as their bodies were found hanging from the branches of a mango tree by their scarves.

Louisa Gosling, programme manager, principles, at WaterAid, said: “One in three women around the world does not have access to decent toilets, and half a billion women and girls risk their safety by having to relieve themselves in the open. We need to do more to change this.”

The tagline “WeCantWait” will be used for this year’s Toilet Day awareness campaign, which is an opportunity to raise awareness on the urgency to end open defecation, especially for the women and girls who are particularly vulnerable.



International Business Times 

United Nations



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