This Article is From May 31, 2014

Hidden in India's Toilet Statistics, the Real Threat of Sexual Violence

Relatives of the two girls gather ar their residence in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh

Badaun: On the night of May 28, two girls, cousins aged 14 and 15 years, stepped out of their house in Katra village, in Uttar Pradesh's Badaun district, to relieve themselves.

They were allegedly abducted and raped by some men from the same village; their bodies were found hanging from a tree the next day.

The route the young girls took that night is a familiar one for the women of the village. It is probably the only time in the day when they step out alone, unaccompanied by the men of the family, in the dark. (Badaun Gang-Rape: Fifth Accused Arrested; Two Cops Booked)

"Men go out in the day, so women can go only early in the morning or late at night," said one of them.

An everyday routine in rural India - where the acute shortage of basic facilities like bathrooms forces women and girls to venture out to the open fields - also makes them vulnerable to horrific sexual violence. ('You Are Safe, Aren't You?' Defiant Akhilesh on Being Questioned Over Law & Order)

Nearly two months ago, four girls from Bhagana in Haryana, who had stepped out to answer nature's call, were picked up from right outside their residence. They were raped and then dumped at the Bhatinda railway station in Punjab. (Special Cell Soon for Speedy Action In Rape Cases: Maneka Gandhi)

It took the families an entire day to get the first information report, or FIR, registered; the medical examination took even longer.

Five people have been arrested in connection with the case, though the man alleged to be the main culprit, the village sarpanch, continues to roam free.

Most families have since fled the village; they have been holding a protest at Jantar Mantar, in Delhi, for nearly two months.

One of the survivors, only 13-years-old, told NDTV, "We want justice. The sarpanch should be punished so that he can be made an example of."

The horrific crimes in both Bhagana and Badaun display the power politics -- as well as the prevalent caste and gender discrimination -- in rural India in its worst form.

They also reveal the dark subtext of one of India's most shameful realities -- 53 per cent of Indian households defecate in the open, according to a World Bank report. In both villages, the girls, from impoverished families, were forced to leave their homes due to a lack of basic sanitation facilities. (53 per cent of Indian households defecate in open: World Bank)