Tuesday June 26, 2018

Women in Mumbai fighting for Right to Pee and want men to join campaign

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  • Right to Pee is a campaign which seeks to gather the attention to the lack of free, clean and safe public toilets for women in Mumbai.
  • 33 NGO have joined hands for this campaign in Mumbai.
  • The shortage of toilets is a nationwide issue: more than half India’s adolescent girls, about 63 million, have no access to a private toilet, according to an NGO Dasra.

Mumbai: Many activists and charities have joined hands for greater gender sensitivity. They started a campaigning for better access to public toilets for women in Mumbai

33 non-profit organizations have made their collaborative effort for this campaign and are calling it The Right to pee campaign. This initiative seeks to gather the attention to the lack of free, clean and safe public toilets for women in Mumbai

In the city of more than 22 million, only about one-third of the 11,000 or so pay-to-use toilets are for women.

“There is a huge disparity between facilities for men and women, largely due to the gender insensitivity of the authorities,” said Supriya Sonar, an activist with the Right to Pee campaign. “Which is why we are telling men who pee in the open: you too don’t have adequate facilities, so why don’t you join our campaign.”

The lack of adequate sanitation costs India the equivalent of more than 6 percent of its gross domestic product every year, according to non-profit Dasra, an Indian foundation promoting social change.

The issue is particularly important to slum dwellers – more than half Mumbai’s population – and to those who work on construction sites and on the streets.

Public toilets for women are often dirty, with broken doors and no running water or lights. Where there are no public toilets, the search for a suitable place comes with the constant threat of sexual harassment or rape.

Women who lack access to clean, safe sanitation tend to drink less water and control their bladders for as many as 13 hours a day. This has significant, long-term effects on their reproductive, sexual and overall health, Dasra said in a report released last week.

In Mumbai, where men can often be seen urinating at street corners and near dumpsters, almost 100 sites have been identified for the construction of toilets for women.

“But nothing has been built, and the funds have lapsed,” said activist Sonar, who on Monday returned an award the Mayor’s office gave to the campaign last year, saying there had been no progress.

“This is about a woman’s dignity,” she said. “We urge the Mumbai corporation to think about that. And we urge men who pee in the open to also join this campaign to bring more pressure on the authorities.”

The shortage of toilets is a nationwide issue: more than half India’s adolescent girls, about 63 million, have no access to a private toilet, according to Dasra.

Girls tend to miss school for an average of six days a month because of the lack of safe toilets there, leading to almost a quarter of them dropping out of education on reaching puberty. This “sharply degrades their potential as individuals and future workers,” Dasra said.

The United Nations said in a 2014 report that it was a “tragic irony” that there were more mobile phones per 100 people in India than toilets.

In economic terms, the importance of tackling the problem is that there is a return of between $3 and $34 for every dollar spent on sanitation, through reduced poverty and health costs, and higher productivity, the United Nations said.

PM Modi launched the “Clean India Mission” in 2014 aimed at improving sanitation and increase funding for public toilets to stop open defecation.

The ” Smart cities” initiative also aims at improving roads , utilities and sanitation.(reuter)

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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Right to pee is a stupendous initiative taken. I too would want men to join this campaign so that it is enforced really fast

  • Pashchiema Bhatia

    This is something really important.. women need safe sanitation facilities and this initiative would probably bring a change

  • devika todi

    i believe such causes should gather attention of everyone, men and women. everyone should have access to basic sanitation.
    this is not just relevant for Mumbai, but almost every city in our country.

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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Right to pee is a stupendous initiative taken. I too would want men to join this campaign so that it is enforced really fast

  • Pashchiema Bhatia

    This is something really important.. women need safe sanitation facilities and this initiative would probably bring a change

  • devika todi

    i believe such causes should gather attention of everyone, men and women. everyone should have access to basic sanitation.
    this is not just relevant for Mumbai, but almost every city in our country.

Next Story

Across Asia’s Borders, Survivors Of Human Trafficking, Dial in for Justice

The trial has been ongoing since 2013

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Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India.
Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India. VOA

When Neha Maldar testified against the traffickers who enslaved her as a sex worker in India, she spoke from the safety of her own country, Bangladesh, via videoconferencing, a technology that could revolutionize the pursuit of justice in such cases.

The men in the western city of Mumbai appeared via video link more than 2,000 km (1,243 miles) west of Maldar as she sat in a government office in Jessore, a major regional hub for sex trafficking, 50 km from Bangladesh’s border with India.

“I saw the people who had trafficked me on the screen and I wasn’t scared to identify them,” Maldar, who now runs a beauty parlor from her home near Jessore, told Reuters. “I was determined to see them behind bars.”

“I told them how I was beaten for refusing to work in the brothel in the beginning and how the money I made was taken away,” she said, adding that she had lied to Indian authorities about her situation after being rescued, out of fear.

Thousands of people from Bangladesh and Nepal — mainly poor, rural women

and children — are lured to India each year by traffickers who promise good jobs but sell them into prostitution or domestic servitude, anti-slavery activists say.

Activists hope the safe, convenient technology could boost convictions. A Bangladeshi sex trafficker was jailed for the first time in 2016 on the strength of a victim’s testimony to a court in Mumbai via video link from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.

Convictions for cross-border trafficking in the region are rare as most victims choose not to pursue cases that have traditionally required them to testify in Indian courts, which meant staying in a shelter for the duration of the trial.

“They have always wanted to go back home, to their families,” said Shiny Padiyara, a legal counsel at the Indian charity Rescue Foundation that has facilitated videoconferencing cases and runs shelters for trafficking victims. “And most never return to testify.”

But videoconferencing is making it easier to pursue justice. Survivors have given statements, identified their traffickers, and been cross examined in at least 10 other ongoing international cases in Bangladesh, advocates said.

“Enabling victims to testify via video conference will lead to a possible decrease in acquittal rates for want of prime witnesses,” said Adrian Phillips of Justice and Care, a charity that supports the use of video testimony to help secure justice.

Even then, it is tough. During Maldar’s three-hour deposition, she withstood a tough cross-examination, showed identity documents to prove her age and countered allegations by the defense lawyer that she was lying about her identity.

Students Combat Human Trafficking
Students Combat Human Trafficking, flickr

‘Unpardonable’

Tara Khokon Miya is preparing her 27-year-old daughter to testify against the men who trafficked her to India from Dhaka, where she had been working in a garment factory.

“I almost lost my daughter forever,” she said, sitting in her home in Magura, less than 50 km from Jessore, describing how she disappeared after work and was taken to a brothel in India, and raped and beaten for almost a year before being rescued.

“What the traffickers did to my daughter was unpardonable,” Miya said, wiping her tears. “We seek justice. I nurtured her in my womb and can’t describe what it felt like to not know about her whereabouts.”

The trial has been ongoing since 2013 when the young woman, who declined to be named, was repatriated. The charity Rights Jessore is helping the family through the process, by providing counseling and rehearsing cross-examination.

“The best thing is her father will be by her side when she talks in court,” Miya said, finally breaking into a smile.

India signed a bilateral agreement with Bangladesh in 2015 to ensure faster trafficking investigations and prosecutions, and with Nepal in 2017, and laid down basic procedures to encourage the use of videoconferencing in court proceedings.

“The procedure is very transparent,” said judge K M Mamun Uzzaman at Jessore courthouse, which often converts its conference hall into a courtroom for videoconferencing cases to protect survivors’ privacy.

“I’m usually present and victims are able to testify confidently … it is easy and cost effective for us,” he said. “But the biggest beneficiaries are the survivors.”

Silencing Victims
Silencing Victims, pixabay

The future

Videoconferencing in Bangladesh has been plagued by technical glitches such as power cuts and poor connections.

“Sometimes the internet connection is weak or it gets disconnected during the testimony,” said Binoy Krishna Mallick head of Rights Jessore, a pioneer in using this technology to encourage trafficking survivors to pursue justice. “But these are just teething troubles.”

The bigger challenge, activists say, is to ensure survivors remain committed to the trial despite delays caused by a backlog of cases and witnesses’ failure to appear to testify.

Swati Chauhan, one of the first judges to experiment with video testimony in 2010, is convinced that technology can eliminate many of these hurdles.

Also read: Imagining Panun Kashmir: Dissent And Detente in South Asia

“Victims go through a lot of trauma, so it is natural that they don’t want to confront their trafficker in a court — but that doesn’t mean they don’t want the trafficker to be punished,” she said. “A videoconference requires meticulous planning and it is not easy coordinating between departments and countries. But it is the future for many seeking justice.” (VOA)