Restrooms: Leading to Issues over Equal Rights?

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Let’s talk about restrooms. I’m sure that after you read that last sentence, the first thought on your mind was, “Why?” Before going further I’ll pose a few more questions. Have you ever felt that your access to a restroom was limited? Have you ever had to pay in order to use a restroom? Many of you will probably answer “no” to both of those questions. You’re probably even more confused as to why I even bothered to ask those questions. Most of us take restrooms for granted; there are ones in our houses, ones in most shopping venues and grocery stores. There are even rest stops on the highway that are really nothing but a facility for restrooms. Maybe they aren’t always the cleanest, but there is no shortage of free public restrooms in the United States.

This is not the case everywhere. Take, for instance, the city of Mumbai in India.

This morning, as I was browsing the internet, I stumbled upon an article on Jezebel titled, “Indian Women Fight for the Right to Pee.” The title of the article is a perfect summary of what the rest of the article details: women in India are facing a lack of restrooms and fines for using said restrooms. According to the article, half of the households in India do not have toilets, so both men and women have taken to peeing in fields. However, many women try to avoid peeing in the open, as this makes them vulnerable to harassment and, in some cases, sexual assault. Yet avoiding this public display may not be as easy as one would think; currently the municipal government provides 5,993 public toilets, as well as 2,466 urinals, for men, but only 3,536 toilets for women. Though women are not supposed to pay to use the restrooms if they just have to pee, many of the male attendants who guard the restrooms force them to pay anyway.

When I first read this article, I was not sure how to react. There are so many things wrong with this situation that I was not sure where to even begin. One of the most alarming parts of this situation, to me, is the effect that it is beginning to have on women. Doctors are claiming that the toilet situation in Mumbai is directly related to health problems that females experience, such as urinary tract infection (UTI) and bladder infections. In addition, women in Mumbai are making an effort to drink less water in the hopes that they will not have to use the restroom as much. With the extreme heat in Mumbai, many of these women are suffering dehydration. If that isn’t concerning enough, just think about exactly how sexist this entire situation is. While men can pee in public, women do not feel comfortable enough to do so because of the fear of being harassed or assaulted. When they attempt to use public facilities, however, they are charged. Yet, while women must deal with all this, men can both use public facilities for free and have the pleasure of utilizing the fields without fear. Worst of all, women are being harassed for performing a basic bodily function – this should never be acceptable.

There is some good news despite everything. Last year the “Right to Pee” campaign began. Social advocates met to discuss problems facing Mumbai and decided to focus on the issue of accessible restrooms as one of the main problems. There have been reports that some local legislators have pledged to build more toilets for women and to ensure that the toilets remain free of charge. It is important that steps are being made to improve this situation. I hope that efforts are furthered as time goes on – no person deserves to be harassed because of basic functions of human life.  The situation in Mumbai is shocking and unsettling, and hopefully it can be fixed as time goes by.

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  1. Hannah Hammill says:

    It is interesting how much we take for granted. There are so many things that we should be thankful for. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. I look forward to reading more articles from you.

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