A leading women rights activist said community policing could be a good solution for women and girls who do not have access to secured toilet
Ayesha Siddiqa, a tenth grader at a school in Gaibandha, has to walk for a few minutes to use the toilet as her home in the village does not have an attached one.
Ayesha is outspoken and knows about safe sanitation and menstrual hygiene. Despite having a good knowledge about hygiene and sanitation, going to the toilet after dark causes her to panic and triggers fear.
“I have seen many girls and women getting attacked when they go out to use the toilet at night on TV. I cannot explain what kind of fear it has instilled in my mind,” said Ayesha.
She always feels someone is lurking around the bush when she goes to the toilet even during the daytime.
She told Dhaka Tribune that sometimes the presence of a man anywhere near the toilet scares her from using it, even though she does not know whether the man has any intention to harm her.
When this correspondent asked her if she has ever faced any kind of trouble while using the toilet after dark, after a long silence, she said: “Not yet, but there are some of my relatives who make me uncomfortable and I cannot stop thinking about what if one of them attacks me when I am alone using the toilet.”
The connection between access to a toilet and women’s risk of sexual violence is another side of sanitation crisis. This is a glaring example that setting up a hygienic toilet is not enough. women need a hygienic and secured toilet.
A leading women rights activist said community policing could be a good solution for women and girls who do not have access to secured toilets.
A Dhaka Tribune report says, a 12-year-old school girl was raped, reportedly by her neighbour in Savar two years back when she went to use the toilet outside her home.
The 52-year-old accused was stalking her and when she left home to use the toilet, he broke into the bathroom and raped her.
When the locals heard her scream, they rushed to the bathroom and caught the accused. Later, he was handed over to police.
This kind of incident is not uncommon, particularly in villages where the toilet is located in a deserted place. It gives the perpetrators an advantage as women are usually alone when they go to use the toilet.
Solutions to the problem
According to a study conducted by Michigan University, women who use open defecation sites like open fields or the side of a railway track are twice as likely to get raped when compared with women using a home toilet.
The study was based on Indian women.
Maleka Banu, general secretary of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, said gender-friendly infrastructure is the key to prevent this kind of incident. But since the infrastructure cannot be reconstructed overnight, community policing in villages could be a way out of this problem.
“If community police are formed in villages, it would provide some sort of protection to women. Although I believe the mindset that a woman should be attacked when she is alone, needs to change,” she told Dhaka Tribune.
She told the correspondent that community police consisting of villagers can work in a roaster at night and call out if they see any man hiding near the toilet.
“Not every family has the luxury to have an attached toilet at their home. But not using toilets after the dark is not a solution. People in the community need to be more vigilant. Also, sufficient lights near the toilet could provide some sort of protection,” she suggested.