Toilets unveiled at Indian village where two girls were gang-raped and hanged

Cousins were assaulted and killed as they went to the loo at night

Asia Correspondent

More than 100 newly built toilets have been unveiled at an Indian village where two young girls were found hanging from a tree after they had gone out at night to a field to relieve themselves.

The latrines were built at Katra Sadatganj in Uttar Pradesh, where in May the two girls were found hanging from a mango tree. Police initially said the girls had been raped and murdered and five men were detained. The case has now been taken over by federal investigators. No charges have yet been brought.

The death of the teenagers drew attention to a dark reality of life for hundreds of millions of Indians, namely the lack of access to proper sanitation. The UN estimates around 600m Indians, just under half the population, have no access to proper toilets and are obliged to defecate in the open.

After the two cousins were found hanging from a tree on the edge of the village, relatives said the girls had disappeared after going to relieve themselves under cover of darkness, as was the usual practice.

Campaigners say women in particular suffer from a lack of sanitation and that low-caste families typically have less access to proper toilets than higher-caste families. Women risk not just bacterial infection and snake bites, but also being sexually assaulted.

The toilets were built at Katra Sadatganj by the Delhi-based sanitation charity, Sulabh. The charity adopted the village after the killing of the girls in May.

During his Independence Day speech on 15 August, India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, said he wanted to provide proper toilets in every school in the country within a year.

“Has it ever pained us that our mothers and sisters have to defecate in the open,” he said. “Can’t we just make arrangements for toilets for the dignity of our mothers and sisters?”

He added: “We are in the 21st century and yet there is still no dignity for women as they have to go out in the open to defecate. Can you imagine the number of problems they have to face because of this?”

The founder of Sulabh, Bindeshwar Pathak, said at Sunday’s unveiling ceremony that a lack of toilets was a factor in many sexual attacks, especially in rural areas.

“I hope this campaign will exhort corporate houses and big organisations to come forward and adopt villages and build toilets in each household,” he said, according to The Hindu newspaper. “This campaign is the most fitting tribute to the girls whose death triggered a national debate on women’s right to safe toilets.”

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