Rape in India Essay

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More than just an ode to the commode, the film, “Toilet, a Love Story,” speaks to one of India’s most serious public health concerns. This media-study uses a popular Indian film as a point of entry to theoretically draw information from written sources and media studies regarding the cultural view of Sanitation within India. This literature review goes into depth about the cur- rent status of sanitation infrastructure in India’s rural and slum areas. I will also discuss the how the in-accessibility to toilets and latrines negatively impacts human decency, as well as having fueled gender violence, rape and domestic abuse, with women being the primary victims. In con- clusion, I propose multiple plausible common ground solutions to the sanitation problem, while respecting India’s vast religious & cultural traditions.


Inspired by a true story, the film; “Toilet” is loosely based on the experiences of a impov- erished woman in central India, Anita Narre, who six years ago found herself in an arranged mar- riage to a field hand. Only after the wedding did she learn her new house had no toilet. This lack of sanitation/ infrastructure leads to public deification and the heightened risk of women in the village. Uncomfortable and humiliated, an ultimatum is given; Either she receives a toilet or she will divorce her husband. But a quick resolution is unavailable, as the couple is working against not only government infrastructure, but also trying to change centuries old cultural views and traditions regarding sanitation and women’s civil rights.

The purpose of this research is to raise awareness on the public health concern of open deification within rural and urban slum areas in India. This research also shines a spotlight on human rights violations and the growing safety concern for women around the world. The greater vision of this paper is to spark conversation, open minds, and propose new policy, aimed towards building public infrastructure, investing in sanitation education, and promoting women rights and safety in India’s underdeveloped neighborhoods and villages.

Research Problem:

Public toilets are a growing issue in India these days: There aren’t enough of them for the country’s 1.3 billion people, and the national government is embarking on the biggest toilet- building campaign in the nation’s history. Nearly half the population still relieve themselves in the open, spreading disease and causing other health problems. India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, troubled by how many Indians still relieve themselves in the open, has vowed to build a staggering 100 million new toilets. According to Unicef, around 564 million Indians, nearly half the population, still defecate in the open — in fields, forests, next to ponds, along highway medi- ans and on the beach. The lack of facilities is not just a matter of public health, as the movie makes clear, but also touches on issues of safety, women’s rights and human dignity. There has been a sharp increase of rape and gender violence in India over the last 10 years. The forced dis- robing of women in public is not only humanly indecent, but may also threaten her very life. Public Health and Sanitation:

“Lovers built the Taj Mahal for their love. But I couldn’t build a loo.” So says Keshav, the lead character of a new Bollywood movie, after his wife leaves him for failing to build a toi- let in their home. The film, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (“Toilet: A Love Story”), is a commercial film in support of governmental campaigns to improve sanitation in India.

Currently the sanitation issue has been largely ignored and only recently has light been shed on the subject. Access to sanitation has attracted more attention in India over the past few years thanks to the Swachh Bharat – or “Clean India” – Mission. Launched in 2014, this project seeks to make the country free of “open defecation” – the practice of defecating outdoors – by 2019. India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, troubled by how many Indians still relieve them- selves in the open, has vowed to build a staggering 100 million new toilets. 

While multiple cam- paigns to provide public latrines to locals have occurred, in many cases they are built but never attached to any public sewer system, resulting in toilets to stinky and fly ridden for anyone to use. The effort follows the Supreme Court of India’s recognition of sanitation as a fundamental right in the 1990s, and the UN General Assembly following suit much more recently in recogniz- ing sanitation as a distinct human right. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India 2011 Census, “ The Number of households not having latrine facility within the premis-es average 66.1% overall population, with 77.2% without latrines in rural areas, and 34.1% with- out latrines in cities and urban areas” (India Census 2011). The type of facilities being used in- clude: traditional piped sewer lines (7.9%), septic tanks (13.9%), pit and vault latrines (9.2%), and public toilets (4.1%). This leaves an average of more than 60% unaccounted for, resulting in open public deification within India.

Urban Environments:

The push for public toilets has been best seen in urban city environments. Flourishing modern cities like Bangalore, Mumbai, and New Delhi have all become technology hotspots, centered around advanced new-age architecture and state of the art facilities. In the 2011 Indian Census urban communities accounted having 66.5% of homes having some kind of access to a toilet within the premises, 86.9% with electricity and 58.7% to treated drinking water. However, this does not paint an accurate picture of the 33% of urban slum communities which have almost no access to a public latrine, and very limited access to other necessary amenities.

Indian slums account for over 13 million people. Slums are small confined structures that house a large number of people in a very condensed area. While some of these tenants have electricity and running water, many slum dwelling Indians must still result to using kerosene lamps for light, and are forced to defecate out in the open, due to lack of public latrines and absent sewage infrastructure. Because most water waste is either open drainage (35.5%) or no drainage at all (53.4%), defecation and waste piles up in the streets. This results in unclean public communities, airborne pathogens and disease running rampant, and the goal of living a healthy life nearly impossible.

Rural Environments:

Rural Environments including remote villages have even less access to bathroom facili- ties. Because of the complete lack of public waste removal infrastructure, only 22.8% of vil- lagers have a toilet within the premises, with only 1.5% of them being flush toilet connected to a sewer line. It is commonplace to see people reliving themselves on the side of the road, in a pub- lic street, or even in-front of businesses and residences. The act of public defecation is not only unsanitary and humiliating, but also a safety hazard, especially for women.

Women’s Safety and Rights In India:

It is no accident that “Toilet” opens with a beautifully lit scene of women trudging out of their village right before sunrise, each one carrying a little brass jug of water to wash with. They are traveling in a group for safety. Rural women sometimes endure taunts and even sexual assault when they relieve themselves outdoors, so they travel in small groups, often before dawn, for protection. It is only customary for men to relieve themselves in public. Women must hide them- selves wither in the cover of night or find a remotely hidden area to relive herself at. This put herself in a very precarious situation, soliciting unwanted attention of perverts and rapists.

Rape and Gender Violence:

In the pursuit of finding a hidden place to defecate, women sometimes find themselves the victims of physical abuse. Journalist Vishnu Varma explains that there are “two critical para- meters – crime rate of ‘rape cases against women’ and also the ‘assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty’. The latter section deals with sexual harassment cases, use of criminal force with intent to disrobe, voyeurism and stalking” (Varma, Indian Express). Because a woman is partially disrobed in public, this gives passing by voyeurs an opportunity to attack. The numerical proliferation of women being raped is astounding. “According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), 24,206 rape cases were registered in India in 2011, which is seen as just the tip of the iceberg. HRW explains that many women are turned away by police or hospitals, or subjected to degrading examinations such as the ‘virginity test’. Between 2003 and 2007, the Indian govern- ment reported a 30% increase in reported rape cases (with a further increase of 20% between 2007 and 2011), and even a 50% jump in abduction, kidnapping and molestation cases” (Vutz, p. 3). However, the true number of rapes in considerably higher as the culture is not supportive of victims rights, and most women are ashamed and afraid to come forward about their crime.

The National Crime records Bureau showed that incidents of rapes went up by 873 per- cent from 1951 to 2001 and from 2001 to 2011 it is increases by 907 percent. Guardian newspa- per publishes that, “Among all the G20 countries, India has been labeled the worst place for a woman.” Cases under crime against women have reported increase of 2.9% in 2016 over 2015. Crimes that include the term, eve teasing ?or harassment hackling and sexual innuendoes against women is done in public places including streets, public transports, cinema halls. Along with the rape of minors and women in tribal and villages often go unreported and unrecorded. 89.16% of polled citizens agree that Lacking of toilets facilities in rural and slum areas increases crimes of rape and violence” (Singh & Parveen, p 24-28). Not only is physical abuse and rape prevalently on the rise in India, but women’s voices are being silenced from coming forward to authorities.

 Women’s Health and Equal Rights:

To avoid being leered at during the day, some women hold their bowels all day for dark- ness to fall. Waiting that long can create health problems, particularly for pregnant women, who are highly susceptible to urinary tract infections, experts say. A recent study found a troubling correlation between pregnant mothers who had no toilet facilities and low birth weight. “The re- searchers examined the effect of pre-birth and social conditions on self-reported PTB status and LBW status for 7,926 women who gave birth between 2004/2005 and 2011/2012. Of these women, 14.9 percent experienced premature birth and 15.5 percent delivered a low birth weight baby” (University of Iowa, 2017). Not helping matters, hard-liners with the governing Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P., have photographed women who relieve themselves outside in an effort to shame them. Earlier this year, a man who stood up for such women was beaten to death. Public deification is not only a Health and Sanitation issue, but also one of defending human rights and ensuring women’s safety in a tumultuously chaotic world.

Respecting Cultural Traditions while pursuing Modernization:

Traditional Indian customs are very clear about their views on defecation within the home. It is unsanitary, vile and one should relieve themselves far away from the abode and cook- ing area where the family gathers. Installing a toilet within a residence is viewed as utterly dis- gusting and would contaminate the entire home with disease and filth. While to a degree this is absolutely true, moving ones excrement only a few meters away from the home into the streets or fields, doesn’t reduce the effect of copious amounts of defecation and waste effecting the pub- lic standard of health and happiness.

Public Shaming to Invoke Change

The Modi Administration has used finger-wagging and criticism to convince citizens to use latrine facilities rather than defecating out in the open. “Teams of government employees and volunteer ‘motivators’ roam villages to publicly shame those who relieve themselves in the open. The ‘good-morning squads’ are part of what one official called ‘the largest behavioral change program anywhere in the world” (Doshi, 2017). People have been seen being publicly chastised and harassed in the act, some going so far as to having their picture posted on the local news. This to a degree is harassment, as the individual becomes the laughing stock of the village, all because he/she got caught committing an act of nature. While this has sparked some change, fear mongering and public shaming may not the most fruitful way of establishing equitable in- frastructure within India.

Common Ground Solutions:

While the movie “Toilet: A Love Story” pushed a narrative in favor of modernization and for every house in India to have a toilet, It also allowed for the act of public shaming to get this point across. Furthermore, the movies campaign completely disregarded traditional Indian beliefs and opinions about toilets within the family abode through criticism and belittlement. But what if there is a mutual solution that would be equitable for all parties involved? What if both tradition- al Indian values as well as pro-modernization and women’s rights groups could both be ap- peased?

One common ground solution proposed by multiple advocate groups is to build commu- nal public bathrooms outside of housing abodes. This would not only allow for traditional values to be respected by keeping toilets out of ones personal home, but also allow women and children access to the facilities throughout the day, ensuring women’s safety and privacy, while also posi- tively affecting personal health standards. Furthermore, having multiple centralized latrines that are easily accessible, will incentivize people to use public bathrooms instead of defecating in the open, thus solving the issue of human feces that litters public spaces, spreading diseases that con- tribute to hundreds of thousands of deaths every year.


Sanitation and public health is clearly one of the largest issues currently facing India to- day. The practice of open defecation has multiple negative effects on its citizens and environ- ment. The problems are listed as following:

  1. A lack of infrastructure enables disease to spread resulting in thousands of deaths every year.
  2. Human decency is being disregarded as people are forced to expose themselves in public to relieve themselves.
  3. Women’s safety is being threatened as the proliferation of rape and gender violence is on the rise, due to the nature in which women are forced to defecate in the open, unguarded.
  4. The health of expecting mothers is negatively effected by health standards, resulting in multi ple campaigns to advocate for Women’s rights in India.
  5. The Indian government and media attempt to ignite change through public shaming, which is not only harassment, but also doesn’t resolve the issue of defecation or propose other solutions.

By sharing informing the public about the current status of sanitation in India, we can come together as a community, to focus on working toward common ground solutions. Ones that both respect the indigenous cultures traditions, as well as make progress towards modernizing this broken infrastructure system. By making multilateral decisions that account for the shared interests of all parties involved, great progress can be achieved for the Indian people.

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Rape in India Essay. (2021, Aug 04). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/rape-in-india-essay/

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