Secure places to relieve oneself are important for women in India – not only to raise awareness about endemic abuse – but do they work as sites of social interaction?
The lack of toilet provision in developing countries is not limited to India, but it is here that it is most dire, and perhaps most detrimental to women. The scandalous sexual abuse suffered by Indian women, which has recently received much attention from Western media, frequently occurs while they are trying to relieve themselves in the open air. The government and NGOs have made many attempts to ameliorate the problem, with varying degrees of failure. In the large city of Thane, a local social enterprise organisation named Agasti, which focuses on the provision of urban toilets, commissioned architect Rohan Chavan to design a facility specifically aimed at women. Constructed around the trunk of an extant tree, the building has four cubicles and a rest area in which women can relax and chat, protected by a 24-hour guard and CCTV. While the sentiment behind the project is admirable, and it functions well as built propaganda for the cause, one wonders how pleasant congregating adjacent to toilets would be, and the prominent security provision is as depressing as it is necessary.
Rohan chavan, women’s toilet drawings