I am driving in my car. I wait breathlessly at the red light. I am beginning to make faces now. I honk (as if my car will sprout wings and fly above the Delhi traffic — which is of course, a piece of cake to surpass). When the red light turns green, I make a mental resolution to jump every next light till the time I find a restaurant. No, no. I am not that hungry. No. Its nature’s call! If I was a man, especially in “saadi Dilli”, I would have parked and gotten down at a place of my choice; chosen a suitable roadside wall (even one that said “dekho gadhaa moot raha hai” — it’s an emergency thing!) and relieved myself. Perhaps I would have decided to bear the stench and make use of a public urinal because I read some funny chap who had written that most men in Delhi piss anywhere and everywhere. But, I am not a man. So I am an irritated urinary bladder!
It so happens that I was on my way to see the upcoming Commonwealth Games Village but Chief Minister Saahiba, where do I relieve myself?
Welcome to Delhi. I am an ‘empowered woman’ as claimed by the State and Centre Government but it is baffling that I am unable to find a (proper, if at all) public urinal while traveling in Delhi. How many public urinals do we have for women? To quote numbers: out of 3,192 public urinals in the capital, a meager 132 are for women. This was reported on the 1st of September, 2008 in a report by ExpressIndia.com. There is another twist to this tale. The city’s civic agencies claim that there are 3,192 public urinals. However, Shahana Sheikh, a final year student of economics at the Lady Sri Ram (LSR) College, who undertook a tour of slums and the outskirts of Delhi from May to July 2008 found that this number amounted to only 1,534 in her survey.
While this might be a natural sanitary problem to all women, it is much more exasperating for women of the slums or lower income strata who do not have an access to private toilet facilities. The City Development Plan of Delhi, 2006 puts the norm of atleast 1 latrine seat for 20-25 people in the Environmental Improvement Scheme
of Jhuggi Jhopri clusters. But the actual ratios vary from 1 latrine seat for 100 people (Jhilmil Colony) to 1 latrine seat for 500 people (in Kusumpur settlement). Out of these, the latrines reserved for children are built without doors, leading to countless cases of sexual harassment. Women and girls from slum areas have to make use of nearby forest areas or bushes which is again highly unsafe and often causes distressing cases of molestation.
This undoubtedly highlights the dire consequences of NOT having basic, safe, hygienic public toilet facilities for women in a city that is gearing up to host the Commonwealth Games. With the Municipal Corporation of Delhi turning a deaf ear to the stern pulling up given to it by the Delhi High Court in October 2009; we, the ‘empowered women’ of India can only pine our hopes on the Chief Minister.
After having ranted so much, when is the World Toilet Day? (Yes, there is one). Any guesses? It’s on the 19th of November.
Advice for women in emergency: Hold yourselves ladies, come what may!
The writer is the Sub-Editor at Youth Ki Awaaz.