Inadequate facilities limit women's access to social and financial mobility in public restrooms


Inadequate facilities limit women's access to social and financial mobility in public restrooms


Women rarely use public restrooms. Even women who reside in urban areas like Delhi, where public restrooms are easily accessible, avoid using them, despite the fact that many find it difficult to even find one. This lack of use is caused by two main issues: toilets are frequently placed in isolated, hazardous areas, and they are frequently filthy. When menstruators must think about obtaining a clean bathroom to check or replace their menstrual products on a regular basis, hygiene is a major concern.

For people who already have a higher risk of contracting an infection, unclean restrooms enhance that risk. The widespread stigma associated with women's and other menstruators' menstrual and reproductive health contributes to the dislike of public restrooms.

SPRF India and Feminism in India worked together to conduct a survey in order to determine the extent to which this avoidance is practised by the general public. Menstruating members of the audience were questioned about their experiences using public restrooms. 43 per cent of the 1,835 respondents stated they never changed menstruation products in a public restroom. 44 % claimed that they occasionally do this. The main deterrent to using restrooms is the perception that they are hazardous and unclean. 76 per cent of the 1,550 respondents who were asked how frequently they found sanitary goods for use in public restrooms responded "never."

What role does gender play?

A few policies have tried to address universal sanitation over the years. In order to guarantee widespread access to sanitation in India, the Swachh Bharat Mission was established in 2014. The Swachh Bharat Mission - Urban (SBM-U) plan exceeded the mission's original target of 5,07,587 by building 6,42,210 toilets in Indian cities. Government attempts to provide adequate public sanitation facilities have received support from private partners like Sulabh International.

The Swachh Bharat Mission - Urban is still "gender-blind" despite the quick infrastructure development. The SBM-U recommendations only make "sufficient provision for separate toilets and bathing facilities for males, women, and the physically impaired," according to SPRF India's Gender Responsiveness Tracker. The plan receives a 2 out of 5 for the scheme's lack of intersectionality.

Since policies impact all genders differently, gender mainstreaming development policies are urgently needed. The economic and social effects of hygienic sanitation facilities on women are avoided in this situation by non-gender-responsive water, hygiene, and sanitation, or WASH, programmes. The wider access that women have to public spaces includes their use of restrooms in public.

Women's social and economic mobility is hampered by the lack of suitable public amenities. For instance, women's ability to enter labour and maintain their employment in urban areas is hampered by both the lack of bathrooms and the prevalence of unclean, poorly designed ones. Menstrual hygiene management (MHM) and WASH regulations are also closely related.

However, MHM receives little consideration when developing WASH policies and examining their human impact. Therefore, a comprehensive, stakeholder-centred review of the current WASH framework in India must address the gender issue.

From beneficiaries to leaders, women and WASH

The need to reimagine public policy from a rights-based approach drives SPRF India's focus on WASH. A public policy thinks tank with its headquarters in New Delhi, SPRF employs young policy analysts under the direction of a distinguished board of trustees and knowledgeable consultants.

We horizontalize intersectionalism policy as a dynamic, problem-solving organisation by firmly grounding it in data and research. In order to reveal significant policy conundrums at previously ignored intersections, SPRF analyses data sets and studies literature from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. This makes our study thorough and distinctive. As a result, the foundation of our narratives, analysis, and suggested pathways is the discovery of connections between the institutional and social systems that produce a comprehensive picture.

Since its founding in 2018, SPRF has approached development issues and the creation of policy in a fact-based and non-partisan manner. The research focus of SPRF has examined the interaction of WASH with gender, governance, healthcare, and sustainability in order to bring together policy trends and human tales.

Through its focus on finding solutions, SPRF understands the need not to treat WASH as a standalone category. It emphasises how urgent it is to develop a public policy environment that is more inclusive, representational, and intersectional.

Through its research, particularly its Scheme Trackers, it does this. The trackers keep tabs on the development of significant central government initiatives, which heavily emphasise the healthcare and WASH sectors. The Gender Responsiveness Tracker measures explicitly how much gender mainstreaming has been included in India's present WASH framework.

The tracker offers a thorough insight into policies on access to clean drinking water, gender roles, and their impact on participation in policymaking because it was developed using the 5-point Gender Responsive Assessment Scale (GRAS) and the Gender Assessment Tool (GAT) created by the World Health Organization. The definition of "substantial accessibility to sanitation facilities" and the "cultural and social tangents of WASH" are both expanded by such a scope.

Women are "the primary beneficiaries of the safety, health, and dignity given by good sanitation practises, and, even more crucially, they are the leaders of this movement at the grassroots level," according to the government. The work of SPRF on WASH supports the notion that women are equally important stakeholders in all aspects of society and play dual roles as beneficiaries and leaders.

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