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Using public toilet is riskier for girls. Especially now in lockdown.

Public Toilets: A Daily Risk

By Sabah Siddiqui, Donor & Program Associate

April 20, 2020

We all know the current situation in the world. We are all doing our best to follow precautions and maintain social distancing to prevent Covid-19 from spreading. In India, we are on lockdown for so many days and will continue this until May 3.

I live in Mumbai, in a slum area. Here, there are 7-8 members in each family. It is so difficult to live on lockdown with a small house and with all the members of a family. I am working from home for Shadhika and have to face a lot of difficulties. My family lives in a small house – around 150 sq. ft. to 200 sq. ft. – and in that room we have a kitchen, bed, and bathroom, but we don’t have toilet, so we are using public toilet.

Pictured: Men’s public toilets in a Mumbai slum (right) are built up on a cement platform and tiled, whereas women’s public toilets in the same area (left) are used as a dumping ground.

All over world, nations and communities are talking about strict social distancing that we all have to follow. We are not supposed to gather or have contact in the grocery shop, road, medical shop or at public transport. No one has thought about the slum areas in India. Because we don’t have a toilet at home, we’re using the public toilet every day, and are in contact with 15-20 people. We must take this risk because we don’t have this facility at home. In my community there are 3 toilets. One toilet is being cleaned twice in a day and has good doors and windows. However, the other two toilets only being cleaned once in a day and are not safe. The facilities only have 7 seats. Every five minutes 10-15 people are gathering in the public toilet areas. It is not hygienic for anyone.

Using public toilet is riskier for girls. Especially now in lockdown. Many women and girls wait to use the toilet until it is safer. This leads to many health problems. Also, when girls and women are menstruating and need to use the toilet more, they are at higher risk of interacting with people and becoming infected.

This is a big problem and affects so many live – it is putting people in danger. Yes, we can’t make private toilets in each house at this time, but at this crucial moment everyone needs those responsible to maintain the cleaning and sanitizing of public toilets.


Check out Bollywood’s take on the national issue, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, on Netflix.

Further Reading: For India, Toilets Are a (Mostly) Serious Issue, from The New York Times

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