A report submitted by the Central Bureau of Investigation regarding the death of two teenage girls on 27 May, 2014, in Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh said that there was no evidence of murder or sexual assault in the case. The petrified parents showed a dislike towards the CBI’s inquiry and had planned to appeal to the Supreme Court and the Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, for justice.
The girls aged, 14 and 16, had left their home in a village named Katra, Uttar Pradesh, because they had no toilet in their home. They were found hanging to the branches of a mango tree next day morning after being brutally attacked. They were allegedly gang raped and murdered when they did something that half a billion women and girls do every day. This case brings out the horror faced by these women who go to dark and dangerous places in search of a toilet, the same places where men wait like hounds to attack them.
This particular case raises several social issues. On one side it talks about the tremors of sexual violence and brutality of men which is tackled by most of the Indian women everyday and also questions about their failed security which every government promises them. The lack of proper sanitation not only makes them a victim of sexual abuse but also makes them a victim of various health problems. The forceful defecation in rivers, fields or alleyways raise concerns of huge public health risks. The practice pollutes the natural waterways, spreads diseases particularly diarrhea among children which is the major cause of children deaths in developing countries. A report in February this year quoted the police in another district of Uttar Pradesh as saying that 95% of cases of rape and molestation took place when women and girls had left their homes to “answer a call of nature”.
Inadequate sanitation facilities in rural and urban areas endanger the health of many young girls and women and also force them to quit jobs or drop out of schools. Women wake up early when it’s still dark, walk towards the bushes on the edge of the slum and squat there to relieve them. Many cases have been registered in the National Capital Region where several women were raped and kidnapped when they had gone to defecate in the open. Several women complained of it being way more than embarrassing or frightening.
However it is interesting to note that there are similar problems due to lack of proper sanitation in many parts of the world. Access to clean water and sanitation currently ranks as the fifth highest priority for people voting in the UN’s global survey. WaterAid, UNICEF and the World Health Organisation, along with hundreds of other organisations around the world, will call for a new Sustainable Development Goal that would commit countries to ensure that everyone everywhere has access to basic sanitation, clean drinking water and hygiene by the year 2030.
Perhaps, for these two teenage girls in India, a new goal for universal access to sanitation has come too late. But their case illustrates in crude terms why access to sanitation and water are fundamental human rights and why a lack of these services is putting hundreds of millions of children, girls and women at risk each and every day.