You Beneath Your Skin — World Toilet Day

You Beneath Your Skin and World Toilet Day

If you’ve read my last posts, my friend, Damyanti Biswas has written a compelling and timely novel entitled, You Beneath Your Skin, about, among other things, acid attacks in India.  But a subplot of this gripping crime novel is the abject poverty that many in India face, including lack of access to WASH — water, sanitation, and hygiene.

I’ll let Damyanti tell you a little more about it with her post below, written just for Green Life Blue Water which highlights the worldwide sanitation problem,  especially in developing nations.

World Toilet Day – by Damyanti Biswas

November 19 was declared World Toilet Day by the United Nations. It sounds gimmicky, but it actually highlights a pretty serious issue.

Women in the West have ready access to the toilets, and 97 percent of women in the US and Europe can easily find a safe, hygienic toilet when they need it. Japanese women face the choice of what sort of music the toilet should play while they relieve themselves. 

In stark contrast in large parts of India, toilets, or lack of them, pose a risk to health and safety.

A large percentage of rural India has no access to safe toilets, and this has led to cases of women being raped and murdered because they went out into the open in the dark. According to Unicef, 50 percent of rapes in India used to occur when women went to relieve themselves in the open. In 2014, two teenage girls were raped and found hanging from a tree after going outside because they had no access to an indoor toilet. 

Snakes, scorpions and other insects abound in the fields, riverbanks and open spaces which the women are forced to use due to lack of proper facilities. Not drinking and eating enough because of lack of toilets and holding in the bodily functions for prolonged periods are common practices in many households. Women also contract urinary, reproductive tract and kidney infections due to poor hygiene in public toilets. Menstrual health becomes a concern because of the lack of sanitary products and changing facilities. In urban India, in many cases, workplaces provide clean toilets for men, but not for women. This includes police stations and even government offices.

Two years ago, the courts granted a woman a divorce because her husband could not provide her with a toilet in their home. This incident sparked widespread discussion and led to a Bollywood movie named : Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (Toilet: A Love Story), where a man had to get the sanitation facilities in his entire village fixed in order to keep his marriage intact.  This movie and other campaigns tied into the government campaign of Swachh Bharat—where millions of toilets were constructed over a period of five years.  

Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the Nation for India had stressed the importance of sanitation, and in honor of 150 years of his birth anniversary, the Swacch Bharat campaign was to declare India open-defecation-free. “Sanitation,” Gandhi once said, “is more important than political independence.”

While a staggering number of toilets have indeed been constructed, not all of them have running water or are cleaned regularly, and many have fallen into disuse. Toilets need to be constructed in well-lit areas, kept hygienic, and guarantee the safety of the women using it, which is often not the case. A lot still needs to be done for the proper maintenance and cleaning of toilets in rural India, and women and men alike need to be trained in their proper usage and upkeep.

In urban areas, especially the slums, where cramped quarters and lack of sanitation facilities can often endanger women’s safety, toilets are even more important. In my debut crime novel You Beneath Your Skin, a woman is kidnapped, drugged and raped because she was vulnerable, having stepped out of her home to relieve herself at night. She eventually succumbs to the effects of the drug, leaving a small child and a hapless husband behind.


Some progress is being made towards providing accessible and safe sanitation for women with initiatives like the Pink toilets in Delhi and WoLoo in Mumbai. These are well-lit, properly maintained, disabled-friendly, with proper signages and sanitary products available.

India continues to lose about 6.4 percent of its GDP, or $166 billion every year, to infections and other health consequences of poor sanitation. Access to proper sanitation is a human right. Without this, it is not very useful to talk about equality and freedom—a girl or woman with no access to clean and safe toilets is not able to work at her full potential, be it at school or the workplace.

Let us hope there will be a day when no woman on this planet would be shamed for needing to go to the toilet, or fear rape and murder while trying to relieve herself. A World Toilet day would then no longer be needed.

Get in touch with Damyanti at the following:

Social media info 

Pls tag me at @damyantig on Twitter and Insta, and on @damyantiwrites on FB

To tag Simon & Schuster

@SimonandSchusterIN : Insta 

@SimonSchusterIN : Twitter 

@Simon & Schuster IN: Facebook 

 @projectwhydelhi and @stopacidattacks on Twitter, Instagram and FB

Hashtag for all social media: #YouBeneathYourSkin

Thanks for reading.

pam lazos 12.15.19

About Pam Lazos

writer, blogger, environmentally hopeful
This entry was posted in book promotion, book release, books, Uncategorized, WASH, writer and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to You Beneath Your Skin — World Toilet Day

  1. I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t think before on this, but it makes so, so much wicked sense.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was aghast to read about this in Damyanti’s book and now it’s arrived in the US. San Fran and a bunch of California cities have poop on the streets because of lack of toilets for undocumented immigrants. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Susan Scott says:

    It truly is unbelievable that this persists. Sad to say, and in spite of our govt here in SA saying for YEARS that they would give it top priority and get rid of pit toilets, this still isn’t the case. There are still schools using barbaric pit toilets. Some deaths too – children falling into them. Horrible horrible …
    The stats are amazing re 6.4% lost to GDP in India due to infections and ill-health. I’m in full agreement with Gandhi about sanitation being more important than political independence.

    Thanks Damyanti and Pam for highlighting this. It fills me with despair. Good on that movie also for highlighting this and the consequences thereafter 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow. I had no idea. So sad and needs to change immediately.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. hilarymb says:

    Hi Pam – thanks for highlighting Damyanti’s book … she so deserves success – as each book’s sales will, with all the profits, benefit the two charities. I know I couldn’t survive living In India – and it’s an appalling situation … so paternalistic … while UN Toilet day – certainly reminds us … we need to do more to help nations get clean sanitation … great to read this – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pam Lazos says:

      I think a lot of us would have trouble navigating it, Hilary. We do have a cushy life compared to women in other countries, eh?😳

      Liked by 1 person

      • hilarymb says:

        Yes – I count myself very lucky … as I’m sure others do … but many I’m not sure consider the implications of living in that sort of country … but for now it’s the season of non-criticism! Take care …

        Liked by 1 person

      • Pam Lazos says:

        I just read an article about how one of the most hazardous jobs in Indian was for sewer sanitation workers who are dealing with human waste removal with their hands as opposed to equipment. The prime minister is trying to increase the amount of sanitation facilities in the country but it’s an extremely difficult and expensive job.
        We are so blessed to have sanitation.🙏

        Liked by 1 person

  6. We take so much for granted here in the USA.

    Liked by 1 person

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