Toilets and Shame

From July 2013 to April 2014 my site for fieldwork was a slum known as Todapur Gas Godown near Rajendra Place in New Delhi. Regular meetings with women and children of the community helped me to explore their daily struggles and issues. One of the major problems that the women faced was the absence of toilet. There was not a single house with a toilet and the absence of a community toilet further added to their misery. Women and girls had to go in the open to relieve themselves and if spotted by any men, had to face lot of humiliation everyday. They passed bad comments and made it more difficult and embarrassing for the girls. The women of the community told me that they avoided going in the daytime. But in emergencies they couldn’t help it except going in the open for defecation. We often forget to be thankful for being the privileged ones who have washrooms attached to our rooms and going to the loo is one of the simplest things to do. On the other hand, for those living in the slums with no closed toilets, going to the loo is a risky task and they have to think twice before actually going out. The women who went to the loo in the daytime, covered their faces completely as they felt embarrassed if anyone saw them. I talked to Sandya, a resident of Todapur slum and she told me how the women had to struggle everyday. Absence of toilets resulted in women falling prey to diseases. Sandya often said that if she could collect some amount of money she would definitely build a toilet and she constantly complained at the neglect of the government in providing the basic necessities of daily living.


Very often I myself faced problems. During my visits to the slum, I mostly avoided staying in the community for long because I used to feel that if I had to go to the loo I’d be in a fix. If it can be a problem for me who spent just few hours there in a day, I cannot even imagine how difficult it is for the women who live there.


Kunzes Wangmo is Senior Care Counselor at Samvedna Senior Care, New Delhi.

- Kunzes Wangmo, Todapur Nov 17, 2015