“Men can take refuge behind a bush or a corner wall. But what are we women supposed to do? The only option that we have is to find a decent restaurant or a shopping store nearby and use the facility pretending to be customers”, this is how Shameela Singh, an executive with an MNC in Connaught Place reacted to the issue of absence of enough public toilets for women in Delhi.
Many echoed the view when Hindustan Times published a series of articles in December last year highlighting the inconvenience that women on the move face when it comes to answering nature’s call. When options before men are limited, for women they are fewer.
As lakhs of women suffer in silence, Shahana Sheikh, a 20-year-old Economic(Honours) student of Lady Sri Ram College wrote a 98-page thesis —“Public Toilets in Delhi — with an emphasis on the facilities for women” and on Wednesday presented it in the Delhi High Court which is hearing a PIL on the issue. The thesis was part of her internship with the NGO, Centre For Civil Society.
And her research piece begins in the most dramatic fashion — “Men can urinate anywhere, but women are taught from a young age to control”.
The inspiration behind the thesis?—“I was travelling in a bus on the Yusuf Sarai road and was looking out of the window, when a MCD public toilet caught my attention. I observed that the toilet was full of filthy, mud-coloured water and a man was urinating just outside the toilet. And there was a woman — old, frail, she looked like a beggar; who had a broom in her hand and was desperately trying to clean the toilet. What an irony I thought — “She’s cleaning the toilet for men, who can anyways urinate anywhere they like” Further, I thought “She can’t even use this toilet. Where does she go when she wants to relieve herself? ” she told HT.
Also taking the facts of a recent Court-appointed survey committee into account, a Bench of Chief Justice AP Shah and Justice S Muralidhar asked the MCD to take note of Shahna’s thesis and file a status report within four weeks.