Toilet tales: Phew, few and raising a stink


Shivani Chaturvedi | September 15, 2014

In Chennai, there are very few public toilets that we can use and most of them are filthy. For women who work outdoors all day – such as vendors, saleswomen, construction workers and policewomen – there is hardly any facility in the city. Even at government offices, like the secretariat, public toilets stink and are maintained so poorly that one cannot think of using them.

Despite suburban trains being the predominant mode of transport for thousands of women in Chennai, the railway stations lack the basic facility of toilet for women.

In a 2012 issue, Time magazine had pointed to the vast health issues that women contend with in absence of public restrooms. “To avoid the need to urinate, they often withhold hydration, a practice resulting in high rates of urinary-tract infections, heat strokes and other health problems,” it said. This is what most women do. We are out for field work for at least five hours. With no proper toilet facility in public places we mostly avoid drinking water.
The only alternative is to visit a restaurant or stop at a petrol pump. We look for a restaurant, have a cup of tea
there and take the opportunity to use the toilet facility available there.

To tackle the problem, the Chennai corporation has planned to set up special ‘She Toilets’ in 348 locations across the city that are likely to be opened by the end of the year. They will also be the first e-toilets (electronic, fully automated toilets) in the city. The toilets at bus stands, markets and open spaces will have sanitary napkin vending machines and incinerators. The most useful feature of an e-toilet is that it flushes automatically even if a person fails to flush. To prevent vandalism and encroachment of public toilets, the She-Toilets will have GPRS devices. Recently, Kerala State Women’s Development Corporation introduced such toilets.

If the Chennai corporation plan takes shape, it will come as a big relief for women in the city.



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