Opinion

Women in India face rape due to a lack of home toilets

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Ashe Schow,India,War on Women,Gender Issues

Forty-eight percent -- nearly 500 million -- people in India lack a home bathroom, forcing them to seek public toilets or relieve themselves in the open.

While that alone brings up specific health problems, there’s an even more serious issue facing women in the country — sexual violence, including rape.

Women traveling to public toilets or open fields to relieve themselves early in the morning or late at night are becoming targets for assault.

On Wednesday, two cousins, ages 14 and 16, left their home in the village of Katra Shahadatganj for a nearby field to relieve themselves. They never returned.

The next morning, the girls were found hanging from a tree in the village. It was determined they had been gang-raped.

Relatives accused the police of discrimination due to the village's low-caste status. The father of one of the victims said police ridiculed him when he asked them to find his daughter and that they “refused to look for my girl.”

"When I went to the police station, the first thing I was asked was my caste. When I told them what my caste was, they started abusing me," the father told BBC.

By Friday, three people had been arrested -- including one police officer -- following the attack on the girls.

The families of the victims said three brothers carried out the attack, and two of those brothers are among the arrested. Police are still looking for the third.

Mukesh Saxena, a local police official, said that three police officers had been temporarily suspended for their misconduct in the case, and one had been arrested.

The mother of one of the victims said her daughter “wanted to study until college just like the boys in the village.” She said that women in her generation didn’t work, but that she was trying to educate her daughter, who wanted to earn her own living.

The mother said that the lack of home toilets is very difficult for women especially.

"It is easier for men but it gets very difficult for us, especially during our menstrual cycles," the mother said.

She also said she always goes with the girls to the field to keep them safe, but the night her daughter was abducted, she didn’t.

"I always keep my girls' safety in mind. I always accompany her and other girls in the family to the field,” the mother said. “But that evening I had to help my husband in tending some animals so I let them go on their own. I asked them to be quick."

Neighbors said they saw the girls being harassed and told the parents, but did not help.

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