Tough to find, horrendous to use: Public toilet, women edition

Tough to find, horrendous to use: Public toilet, women edition

Ask Bengalureans to reach a consensus on one issue and they would definitely cry out aloud: The struggle to find a public washroom and the pathetic condition of the existing ones. This problem only gets worse for women. They are either left hunting for toilets in malls or simply suffer due to the lack of a basic amenity.

Bengaluru, notes civil services aspirant Rashmi Gowda Ramachandra, might be seeing some improvement technologically. "But one recurring problem that is receiving negligible attention both from the municipal authorities and government is the provision of public toilets, restrooms and nursing centres for pregnant women," she laments.

Not only does the city let down the women who step out of their homes but it also puts the womens' safety at risk. "It is a popular stereotype that compared to men, women are more worried about hygiene and cleanliness. Even to complain about cleanliness, there are no public toilets around my locality. If I am outside, it is either my workplace, a mall or back home if I need to use a washroom. Not everyone is a mall person,"quips Renuka Govind, a history teacher.

She adds that the city's infrastructure adds to the woes of lack of public toilets "There is a need for more public toilets around the city at equal distances. I mean look at the roads and the kind of traffic around the city. If I am stuck in one corner, hunting for toilets is nothing less than an adventure. Of course, beggars are not choosers, considering the number of public toilets, one is forced to use the one which is nearest," Renuka says.

After a struggle, when women do find a public toilet, they are faced with the horror of poor maintenance. For Divya Makhija, a Nursery teacher, public toilets are an option when there is absolutely nowhere else to go. "The city washrooms are dirty and not maintained, to say the least. I have seen a few around Malleswaram, and I wonder how does someone even walk across to that spot, forget using it. The stink is that horrible."

Divya says that to expect a hand wash or air freshener is too unrealistic as even water is unavailable in some toilets. "If we happen to go on any trip outside the city, it gets even worse. Women need basic cleanliness, not necessarily hi-fi amenities. I am sure women won't mind even paying Rs 5 or even Rs 10 if the toilets are clean," she points out.

The inconsiderate staff is another issue. Prathima, a working professional had the worst experience of her life. She recalls, "I was suffering from high fever one day and was about to faint. I was in Majestic and headed to the nearest public toilet because I was feeling pukish."

The toilet was a mess, but what was messier was the behaviour of the staff. "Even as I stood at the basin trying to gather myself, the staff rudely asked me to leave. She said she wouldn't let me puke in here. The staff was not even humane enough to ask me to sit. I was visibly ill and left the washroom almost fainting. That was my first and last public toilet experience."

Since public restrooms are not publicly available, women –young and old-are forced to go in search of unknown buildings, inviting unforeseen threats.

Safety is thus a big concern. "As a problem that has been coterminous with limited public spaces for women, the problem of inaccessible toilets is all around the city.

This is responsible for the lack of faith in public infrastructure among the women and girls," says Rashmi Gowda, a resident of Koramangala.


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