Women's Right to a Toilet: Violence, Fear and Risk
Briefing with WaterAid and UN Special Rapporteur for Sanitation, Caterina Di Alberqueque
31 October 2012
Nothing could be more basic than a toilet.
It is probably the first and last place many people visit every day. Even though it is a basic need common to every human being, many women disproportionately suffer shame and social and cultural taboos when trying to find a place to go to the toilet. Walking long distances to find some privacy, or going to the toilet under the cover of darkness makes this daily need significantly more dangerous for millions of women around the world.
Unsafe toilets or defecating in the open provide an opportunity for physical and sexual violence, and going to the toilet becomes something to avoid until the need becomes unbearable. It is tragic that despite the fact that toilets are crucial for meeting women’s sanitation and menstrual hygiene needs with privacy and dignity, women face the daily threat of physical and sexual abuse and humiliation in the attempt to find a safe place to go to the toilet.
Read more from the event policy brief here
In partnership with WaterAid, the PGPD hosted a briefing with experts to inform PGPD members and all parliamentarians how to advance this issues.
The speakers included:
Miriam Layton, AT Projects Papua New Guinea
Miriam Layton spoke of her personal experience using toilets in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and how she has seen this issue impact on the lives of women and girls in her role at co-director of AT Projects in PNG. From the town of Goroka, Miriam talked about the two public toilets which are available at an expense to the 40,000 people who live there, and to the many women who use the local marketplace to sell their produce. Numerous women are forced to go to the toilet in the nearby bush, where a report of rape was made less than a month ago.
Kate Schuetze, Amnesty International
Kate Schuetze presented on behalf of Amnesty International and introduced the stories told by women as part of a research study conducted into sanitation, women and violence in the slums of the Solomon Islands titled ‘Where is the Dignity in That? Women in the Solomon Islands slums denied sanitation and safety’.
Jenny Clement, CARE Australia
Jenny Clement outlined the work that CARE Australia has been doing in Africa to improve the sanitation situation of women, which is ultimately reducing their vulnerability to violence.
Jo Crawford, International Women’s Development Agency
Jo Crawford discussed the importance of acknowledging the Right to Water and Sanitation to improve women’s access to services. She talked about how providing safe access to sanitation can prevent the occurrence of violence, especially for women in the Pacific. She acknowledged the Australian Government’s recent attempts to improve women’s opportunities and reduce violence in the Pacific and the opportunities to address sanitation as part of this.
Adam Laidlaw, WaterAid
Adam Laidlaw reiterated the importance of acknowledging the Right to Water and Sanitation, and outlined a number of other activities that the Australia Government can undertake to bring attention to this critical issue.
Catarina De Albuquerque, Special Rapporteur to the Right to Water and Sanitation
Catarina de Albuquerque, the Special Rapporteur to the Right to Water and Sanitation, provided a video message to the PGPD urging them to support the Right to Water and Sanitation. A recording of the video is available here.
The Parliamentary Briefing encouraged those attending to undertake the following four actions:
1. Call on the Australian Government to increase its funding for water and sanitation to reach $500 million annually by 2015, with at least half of that being spent on sanitation.
2. Support the upcoming motion being put forward by Senator Claire Moore, asking the Australian Government to publicly acknowledge the Right to Water and Sanitation.
3. Raise awareness about the global sanitation crisis on World Toilet Day on 19 November, or the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25 November or on Human Rights Day on 10 December. WaterAid will make available press releases and speech material.
4. Draw the links between sanitation and violence against women and explore the opportunities to increase sanitation coverage through existing and new funding streams and programs in the Pacific.