Flagging the “disproportionate" burden that falls on women and girls due to deficiencies in sanitation facilities, the Economic Survey said ensuring safe and adequate sanitation is becoming a serious policy issue.

“When these services are denied, women face considerable insecurity and nutritional risks. For this reason, ensuring safe and adequate sanitation, water security and hygiene—the objectives of Swachh Bharat—as part of a broader fundamental right to privacy is becoming a serious policy issue," the survey said.

India’s ambitious toilet-construction programme is part of the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) mission to make India open-defecation free. Currently, 60% of rural households and 89% of urban households have access to toilets—a considerably greater coverage than reported by Census 2011.

ALSO READ | The right priorities for healthcare spending

“This burden on women can take several forms: threat to life and safety while going out for open defecation, reduction in food and water intake practices to minimize need to exit the home to use toilets, polluted water leading to women and children dying from childbirth-related infections, a host of other impacts," the survey said.

A rapid study conducted in 2016 by WASH Institute and Sambodhi for the Economic Survey bares the gravity of the issue: 76% of women had to travel a considerable distance to use these facilities. Thirty-three per cent of women have reported facing privacy concerns and assault while going out in the open. In the face of these considerable risks, the number of women who have reduced consumption of food and water are 33% and 28%, respectively, of the sample. The Rapid Survey on Gender Norms and Sanitation and Hygiene, and Implications by life-stage (adolescent girls, pregnant women, and mothers of children under 5), covered 10 states with different levels of sanitation coverage across 5 geographical zones.

The survey also said women have a key leadership role to play in Swachh Bharat’s objective of creating defecation-free communities, “by nudging men and boys of the household to change their own defecation behaviours".

Close
×
My Reads Logout