A few days ago, two Indian girls were gang-raped and murdered while looking for a toilet or somewhere private to defecate in the open.
Those two cousins, just 14 and 16 years old, had left their homes in the Indian village of Katra, in Uttar Pradesh, because they had no toilet at home. They were never to return, found hanging from a [mango] tree after being brutally attacked. (source)
Villagers gathered around the tree and initially blocked the police from removing the bodies. They suspected police involvement. And indeed, after a while five men were arrested, including two police officers accused of dereliction of duty and criminal conspiracy. Other suspects are still on the loose.
The father, a 45-year-old agricultural laborer from a low-ranking caste, said in a telephone interview that the two girls were last seen alive on Tuesday evening in a mango orchard, in the company of a man named Pappu Yadav. (The man’s surname is the same as his caste.)
The father said a relative saw the girls with Mr. Yadav and two of Mr. Yadav’s brothers and that, for reasons he did not explain, the relative tried to intervene between Mr. Yadav and the girls. One of the Yadav brothers pulled out a pistol “and put it to the head of my cousin-brother,” the father said, using a common term in India for a close relative. “He got scared and ran away.”
When he heard what had happened, the father said, he went to the local police station and asked that Mr. Yadav’s house be searched. But the police officers, who are members of the Yadav caste, “took the side of the culprits,” the father said. “They abused and misbehaved with us.” (source)
The girls were members of the Dalit community, India’s lowest caste once known as the “Untouchables”.
2,5 billion people in the world don’t have access to decent toilets. 1 billion of those practice open defecation. Half a billion girls and women are forced to find someplace safe to defecate outdoors, each and every day. Often they have to wander off to distant and dark places, where they are an easy target for sexual predators. And in some cases they pay with their lives. Even if they don’t, the practice endangers public health, polluting natural waterways and spreading diseases, notably diarrhea, a major cause of death in children in the developing world.