Badaun, UP: Young Lakshmi is filled with fear every time she has to step out of home and go the fields 200 metres away to relieve herself in the night. The 19-year-old lives in a small Uttar Pradesh village in Badaun district only a few houses away from where two young girls were allegedly abducted, gang-raped and murdered in May.
The two teen cousins had stepped out to go the fields at night. They were reported missing soon after, and were found hanging the next morning from a tree.
Amid global outrage, there was a demand for access to safe sanitation for women and it was announced that 100 toilets would be built in the Badaun village for 400 families. Sulabh International, a leading NGO, began construction of toilets.
But two months later, these are nowhere near finished. Lakshmi, who has five unfinished toilets near her home says, "Work was stopped around 10 days ago...so we can't use these toilets. We are very scared when we go out of the house to relieve ourselves after dark. But how can we use these toilets?"
None of the toilets are in use. Most don't even have doors, so women can't use them.
Ramesh Mishra, Sulabh's planning in charge, says a lot of time was spent selecting homes to build the toilets. Also, they planned to build all 100 toilets in one go and not in phases, so work has been slow. "The aggrieved family had asked us to make more toilets in the area. Ultimately we have increased the number of toilets in their part of the village...because of these reasons the work started late," Mr Mishra said.
Sulabh says that they will hand over fully functional toilets to these families in the next few weeks. But the local administration says it will take time to build awareness about the need for public toilets in these areas to ensure that they are used and that women find safer ways to relieve themselves.