By Nitya Sriram:
How many of us have had to think twice before using the bathroom? Whether it is at home or at work, it’s simple – if we need to answer nature’s call, we instinctively head to the bathroom. But how do we react when a domestic worker who works in our homes needs to answer nature’s call? With an aim to find out, on November 21, two days after the World Toilet Day, Team YKA posed the question on social media to gauge people’s attitudes.
The image drew a mixed bag of comments from viewers as follows…
“We live in a country where certain rights are provided to as an individual. Many are unaware of what the basic rights they are provided with. Domestic helpers are treated with harsh discrimination but if they miss even a single day to work, owners behave as roof has been removed. They can’t work even a single day without helper still discrimination? and those people asks for a change.. Claps for them.”
“Happened in our society. So Ms. Mathur asked in WhatsApp group should the maids be allowed to use bathroom. She wanted everyone to decide. One of them said as long as toilet is kept clean after use, I don’t mind. Ms Mathur is not convinced yet.”
“Any person engaged in domestic work within an employment relationship. But in India, the stigma linked to domestic work is heightened by the CASTE SYSTEM.”
“In my hometown everyone behaves like this.”
“Our landlady treats her maid the same way. I don’t know what’s wrong with her, I feel bad for the maid.”
“They aren’t allowed to touch the bedsheets, meaning that they sweep around the bed, making sure that they don’t touch anything. To provide them with water, utensils are kept away from all the others. There is heavy caste discrimination and isn’t just about hygiene.”
“I have experienced very stubborn domestic help (top maids) who will soil the floor of the bathroom / toilet because they are not comfortable using the western style toilets and in certain homes there are only western toilets, though they are requested a number of times to use it the right way they do not listen, leaving behind a dirty stink because they only pour a mug of water on the ground and do not scrub the floor with phenol thereafter, thus forcing certain people to disallow them from using the home toilets and requesting them to use the building toilet. 24×7 helps are of course allowed to use the home washroom and are taught well on how to use the toilet hygienically, they have no other choice but to listen since they become part of the family.”
“But did you know this could be corrected if reservation was abolished?”
“When I come home after a game of football, my parents do not allow me to lie down on the bed. That does not make the parents castists. It’s all about hygiene. And like the other comment said, they lack sanitary habits. Stop turning everything into a caste issue. ‘Caste’ is the biggest hoax propagated by the media.”
This online community of commenters is just a microcosm of the larger society in a country where about 60.4 per cent of the population has no access to toilets even today. That denied access to toilets, for domestic workers can be thought of, as a result of ‘stubbornness’ rather than discrimination, or due to concerns over hygiene, speaks volumes about how we, as a society think. It highlights the apathy of the privileged towards those who clean toilets, collect garbage, sweep roads, or are manual scavengers. Moreover, it proves that building more toilets is not the only solution to accessibility – the water runs deeper than that, and it is high time to direct efforts towards eliminating it at the roots.