Locked toilet leaves women out in the open in Delhi

October 20, 2015 12:00 am | Updated 07:57 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Homeless women living in portacabins on Lodhi Road have been forced to relieve themselves in the open or walk to another nearby toilet.Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma

Homeless women living in portacabins on Lodhi Road have been forced to relieve themselves in the open or walk to another nearby toilet.Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma

For over two weeks now, a group of women living in Central Delhi have been denied their basic human right: the right to relieve themselves with dignity.

These women, mostly widowed and homeless, live in rein baseras (portacabins) set up near Sai Baba Mandir on Lodhi Road.

For reasons unknown to them, the toilet near their “home” has been locked by the caretaker and these women are forced to either relieve themselves in the open or walk down to another toilet nearby. They bathe fully dressed, squeezed between the space separating two cabins.

Neither the Delhi government nor the civic agency has acknowledged their woes even as these women are risking their personal safety everyday to answer the call of nature.

“It’s miserable,” said Heena (name changed on request), one of the occupants.

“The person in-charge of the toilet just shut it two weeks ago saying the water motor was not working. Where will we women go? It is humiliating and very risky to defecate in the open. And to think that this is happening in Central Delhi, where we live surrounded by government offices and houses. There is no one to hear our woes,” she said.

Some other women said that the toilet, operated by Raksha Security Company, has been locked because they cannot pay to use it.

“The toilet facility can be used for Rs. 5 per person for toilet purpose and Rs.10 per person for bathing. This is a big sum for these women most of who have no means to earn a livelihood,” said Sunil Kumar Aledia of the Centre for Holistic Development (CHD), an organisation working for the homeless in the city.

Emphasising the need for accessible toilets, a note prepared by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation had said that toilet is important for everyone.

“Access to safe, clean toilets brings particular benefits to women and girls,” it noted.

“The need for sanitation facilities within homes and in public places, which meet women’s physical and psychological demands, cannot be over-emphasised,” said the Ministry note.

These suggestions, however, have been overlooked in case of these women.

“The women are forced to struggle for their most basic needs here and nobody is paying attention because they are a group of women without economical backing or political support. They have no voice and hence have been sidelined,” said Mr. Sunil Kumar.

When asked about the condition of the toilet and why this essential service has not been restored even after 15 days, a senior Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board official said they have already received the complaint and the matter will be rectified soon.

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