There is an eye-opening article in NPR entitled, “How a Lack of Toilets Puts India’s Women At Risk of Assault”.
They make a compelling argument that women who are forced to go outside to defecate in the middle of the night are prey to sexual assault, rape and murder. Unbelievably, of the two countries who have more than a billion people, China has a rate of 1 in every 100 people forced to defecate in the open. That’s
ten million people! In India it’s 1 out of every 2 people; that’s an unbelievable five hundred million people!!
The multitude of problems caused by this situation includes not only rape, murder and diarrhea-related diseases but also new evidence that “poor sanitation when a child is young can lead to mental and cognitive stunting.” The overall risks of having to walk outside to publicly defecate- something I have never, ever thought about- is actually an enormous world problem.
Fortunately, some complex problems can have more simple solutions. In India, they have launched a “No Toilet, No Bride” campaign which exhorts women to not marry into families that do not have a toilet! The Gates Foundation has set up a challenge to reinvent the toilet to accommodate the deprivations of India- and it has to be cheap. Current designs are being tested.
On a recent trip to Tokyo I became reacquainted with what I call a “Rich People Problem”. Sitting on a $6,000 toilet which does everything needed to keep me clean without the need for toilet paper, a malfunction left me very clean but… well… very wet. No toilet paper in the fancy room- not needed, of course. Had I already read the article noted above, I would have laughed at my “terrible” predicament rather than emit a very loud “harrumph” Rich People Problem indeed.