VIDEO: How long does it take a woman to find a toilet in an Indian city?

"Ladies Toilet: A need unfulfilled", a short film by Ishwarya Teeparthi, Ittisha Sarah and Usma Chakma, who interned with Hyderabad Urban Lab from May to July 2015 and helped with the initial conceptualisation of this campaign. This film was among the first components developed for Don't Hold It In.


A toilet for women needs to be more than a cubicle with a hole in it.


In a toilet, any woman would seek: safety, privacy, cleanliness and disposal facilities.


So why has nobody designed an adequate women's toilet?


Women of the 21st century are not only bread bakers, but also bread earners. They are out of their homes, working for long hours, as much as the men. Today, women constitute an important workforce for the country but how much is the Government doing to provide the basic necessities to women? With the unfair ratio of male to female toilets, the Government has clearly failed to adequately provide something as basic as a toilet for women within the public space. According to the Central Public Health and Environmental Engineering Organisation (CPHEEO) norms the male-female ratio for toilet availability should be 1:1 but in reality there is a severe scarcity of toilets for women. Women and girls head for fields, streams, trees or bushes in the dim light of dawn and dusk, and, on top of all the inconvenience and unpleasantness that implies, risk sexual attack every time they have to pee.


Lack of ladies toilets is an issue that needs immediate attention but just ensuring more ladies toilets being built is not enough as the few which already exist do not cater to women’s sanitation needs adequately. Ladies Toilet remains more or less invisible in discourses around planning and design. The true problem with rethinking the Ladies Toilet is that it is not simply a functional response to a physical need but a cultural product shaped by discourses of gender, the body, privacy and hygiene. As such the planning of Ladies Toilet does not only owe to the female physiology and the realities of use but also to deep rooted historically and culturally specific conventions, from prohibitions on bodily display to the binary gender division. Can challenging the assumptions that underlie the design of ladies toilets open up the possibility of subverting them?

Nov 17, 2015