‘If you don’t send your women to clean our toilets, we will beat them up’

August 25, 2014 08:29 pm | Updated November 16, 2021 06:22 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Women who stopped manual scavenging faced threats of violence in some parts of the country, according to a new report titled, ‘Cleaning Human Waste, Manual Scavenging Caste and Discrimination in India,’ released by Human Rights Watch on Monday.

The report released in Bhopal said in November 2012, when Gangashri along with 12 other women in Parigama village in Uttar Pradesh’s Mainpuri district voluntarily stopped cleaning dry toilets, men from the dominant Thakur caste came to their homes and threatened to deny them grazing rights and expel them from the village.

Despite these threats, the women refused to return to manual scavenging. Soon after, some 20 to 30 upper caste men from Parigama confronted the community.

Ms. Gangashri said, “They called our men and said “If you don’t start sending your women to clean our toilets, we will beat them up. We will beat you up.” They said, “We will not let you live in peace.”

Women like her live in fear of eviction.

In Kasela village in Uttar Pradesh’s Etah district, women from 12 families manually clean toilets with the full knowledge of village authorities. After spending the morning manually removing excrement from the toilets, the women return to the houses they cleaned to collect leftover food as payment. They are given grain donations at the harvest and old clothes at festival times, but receive no cash wages.

Munnidevi told Human Rights Watch she stopped going to homes where she was not given any food, but says she returned to work after her employers warned that she would not be able to enter community land to collect firewood or graze her livestock.

“I have to go. If I miss a single day, I am threatened,” she said.

Despite the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 (the 2013 Act), and several Supreme Court orders there is no end to manual scavenging. The report said in Maharashtra, for instance, panchayats have recruited people to manually clean toilets and open defecation areas on the basis of their caste, even denying them other jobs for which they are qualified within the panchayat.

A young man was unable to find employment despite studying commerce and banking. Finally he ended up being hired by a panchayat to clean toilets because he belonged to a particular community. As of July 2014, the Indian government has extended the time limit for ending manual scavenging at least eight times, the report said.

This report is based on research Human Rights Watch conducted between November 2013 and July 2014 in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh and over 135 interviews were conducted.

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