When I was studying in the third year of medical school, we had to pour pages over pages on the evolution of sanitation in our country – define sanitation, the importance of the word itself, connection with toilets, etc. We diligently mugged up the lightly coloured pages of K. Park (for us medical students, this was the bible of Community Medicine, and we are expected to swear by it).
The practicals included visiting a nearby semi-urban locality to critically analyse the defects in their sanitation and housing.
So we went, analysed, came back and passed the 3rd year (to cut it short)! But then I was travelling by bus to my hometown from college. I happened to be menstruating and as all you ladies know, the urge of urinating is irritatingly strong during those five days.
The bus stopped at a small sweet shop where we were expected to refresh ourselves. Now for most of us who frequently use the bus or car for travelling at a stretch of 5-6 hours, such breaks are heaven! I quickly got down from the bus, but alas! No restrooms for ladies. I knew of other places with a semblance of a toilet at least, but this one had none.
The rest of the journey was agonising. And I thought of my 3rd year presentation – we had critically and often condescendingly analysed the houses of less privileged people and here I was. The irony wasn’t lost on me.
The lack of restrooms on the highway for both men and women is appalling .While men have the luxury of relieving themselves at the roadside, women do not. The government needs to construct restrooms at regular intervals on the highway with adequate supply of water, proper sanitary supplies for women and breast-feeding stations for mothers. With Swachh Bharat Abhiyan making a strong impression in the media, it surprises me how such an issue has been ignored. Maybe the root of it lies in the taboo surrounding menstruation.
In a country that has conquered the moon and the red planet, why should women have to live in the mortal fear of menstruating while travelling? Why should women have to visit us doctors for prescribing a pill that “stops their bleeding “every time they are out on the road?
I urge all women to petition for toilets in the highway. Believe me sisters,this is one “abhiyan” that needs your voice.