Nearly half of India's 1.2 billion people have no toilet at home (file photo: Back to Life)
In a stinging reminder of the lack of toilets in north India, six newly-wed women in Khesiya village in Kushinagar district of Uttar Pradesh have returned to their parents in the past two months as their husbands’ houses did not have any toilet.
Neelam, Kalawati, Shakina, Niranjan, Gudiya and Sita had protested against their husbands and in-laws after finding out that there was no toilet in their houses.
Gudiya told BBC Hindi that it was very troublesome to go to the fields before dawn every morning.
"My parents have a toilet at home, but there is no toilet in my husband Ramesh Sharma's home. Going outdoors was a big hassle, so I fought with him and returned to my parents," she said.
According to a local social worker Asha Parveen: “They are adamant not to go back until toilets are built there.”
Open defecation is an acute problem in India, with nearly half of the 1.2 billion population having no toilet at home.
The bold step taken by the six women has caught the attention of Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International, an NGO working in the field of sanitation. He said Sulabh would construct toilets free of cost in the houses of the in-laws of these six women as a gift.
"Such kind of rising incidents clearly show the changing mindset of girls over toilets. Now everybody realises the importance of toilets," Pathak said to the Press Trust of India.
"The problem is especially acute in rural areas where women suffer the most due to lack of toilets. They have to wait for darkness for the sake of privacy before attending to the call of nature. They have to leave before sunrise or wait for the sun to go down," he said.
Now, thanks to these six brave women, bridegrooms in north India will be on notice to get a toilet installed in the house before marrying their bride.