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Why do women in India refuse to drink and use the toilet even in 50-degree heat

'07.05.2021'

Source: Air force

The sun is at its zenith, the heat is unbearable - at 50 degrees Celsius. Mona, 13, lives in a slum in Delhi. In this heat, she deliberately refuses water.

Photo: Shutterstock

“I try to drink less water, because our toilet is open, without doors, and hooligans are constantly hanging around. I'm afraid to go there, ”says Mona.

She limits herself and eating to go to the toilet no more than once a day, writes Air force.

Mona goes to the bathroom with other women - early in the morning or late at night.

About 524 million people in India, according to the UN, do not have toilets.

For women, the lack of a toilet in the home also means that they are at risk of sexual violence when they go out into the streets.

Savita, also living in a slum in Delhi, says that women face fear and humiliation every day.

“Women have to endure obscene remarks, harassment. The local guys sometimes just don't leave when the women go to the toilet. Therefore, we are afraid to go there. Each time you have to ask other women to come together, ”says Savita.

What happens when women have to choose between health and safety?

RAND Corporation researcher Gulrez Shah Azhar says women stop drinking enough water because they are shy and afraid to go to the bathroom during the day.

“They deliberately dehydrate their bodies - and this can have serious consequences for their health, especially in hot weather,” he says.

On the subject: Being second-rate: how women actually live in India

According to him, in 2010 in the city of Ahmedabad during an abnormal heat, many people died, while, according to him, there were more women among the victims of the heat than men.

“It is believed that if a woman stays at home, she is not at great risk during the heat. But that's not the case, ”says Gulrez.

In many homes in India, the only way to cool the room is with a ceiling fan. But this cooling method is very unreliable in a country where electricity is often cut off.

Cooking in the house leads to the fact that there is smoke in the room, it becomes stuffy.

Even traditional women's clothing - a sari (a piece of fabric up to 9 meters long, wrapped in a special way around the body) - can contribute to overheating.

Bhuni Shelukar lives in the village of Makhla in the state of Maharashtra. The summer here can be very hot, the temperature rises to 47 degrees Celsius.

Due to the acute water shortage, Bhuni and other women go after her for several kilometers every day, then they carry the water back into the vessels on their heads.

“We need to walk 2-3 km to get water, and we don't have enough. We have to go to fetch water several times a day because we can only carry a few liters at a time, ”says Bhuni.

“How much can you carry on your head? We are very tired, ”complains Bhuni, returning home with water.

Damini Rameshbhai Marwadi lives in the city of Ahmedabad, in the west of the country. According to her, the cultural norms of a patriarchal society are still very strong here: a woman must take care of her home and family - cook, clean, but at the same time, according to Damini, she often cannot take care of her own health.

“Going to the toilet is a problem. We can only go there after the men, ”says Damini.

She says, like many Indian women, she has to limit her food and drink to keep the bathroom to a minimum. “In the summer I got sick with jaundice because of this,” admits Damini.

Gulrez says that the problems that women face when using outdoor toilets are not accepted in India. The culture of silence often leads to death.

On the subject: Don't be born a girl: what women have to endure in modern India

“A long-term solution to the problem is impossible without addressing such difficult issues as gender equality and women's rights,” says the researcher.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has repeatedly warned earlier that the heat waves in South Asia, where one fifth of the world's population lives, will become more frequent and prolonged.

However, until now the problem of abnormal heat and its consequences have not been given enough attention.

According to Gulrez, it is very important to take into account these climate changes. The population must be provided with mobile phones so that they have the opportunity to ask for help in an emergency. The roofs of houses in these areas should be painted with white paint reflecting the sun's rays; light curtains on the windows should be replaced with thick ones.

But the most important, according to the researcher, is providing the population with drinking water in sufficient quantities and arranging lavatories in the houses.

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