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A 17-year-old girl allegedly committed suicide in Telangana’s Nalgonda district after failing to convince her parents to build a toilet in the house. Kadaparthi Rekha, a junior college student in Gundala sub division, allegedly poured kerosene and set herself on fire on January 25 around 9 pm. Her parents, Sattiah and Nagamma, are farm labourers and couldn’t afford the expense to build a toilet.
The young girl had been asking for a toilet to be built for a really long time. To this her father always replied that they would build one when they have money to do so. The teen was reportedly embarrassed, as she had to use toilet in open and take bath in makeshift tents of gunny bags. The girl was quite depressed over the lack of a toilet at home and committed suicide.
Suicide rates differ between boys and girls. Girls attempt suicide about twice as often as boys, often by overdosing on drugs or by cutting themselves. This is majorly because of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse followed by depression. It can also be due to distress, irritability, agitation or feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness that often accompany depression. Since Rekha took such an extreme step, the police is looking at possibilities of her being harassed or stalked. They believe that it might have made her desperate for seek privacy and safety.
Should a girl wait for being sexually harassed to get a private toilet? Is this justified?
Food, clothing and shelter along with clean toilets are the basic necessities for a woman. Its important that women have the knowledge and means to manage their menstruation hygienically with dignity and are provided with means for the safe disposal of menstrual waste. Women are often vulnerable to being harassed when they use shared toilets, or practice open defecation. Women often wait until night to defecate, which increases the risk of assault. Many even choose to ‘hold it’ or limit their consumption of food and drink so as to delay the need to relieve themselves, which can increase the chance of urinary tract infections. The shame related to defecating in the open also affects women’s self esteem and personal hygiene. In this case, Rekha was deprived of one of the basic necessities of life, as her family was a victim of poverty.
The Clean India and sanitation drive campaign, which includes building toilets in every village, is an important part of PM Narendra Modi’s political campaigns but when will it be implemented? Will it be after thousands of such girls commit suicide?
Ultimately, it is the family who is responsible for such a loss. The tragedy of a young girl dying due to overwhelming hopelessness or frustration is devastating to any family. Parents, siblings, classmates, coaches, and neighbours might be wondering if they could have done something to prevent the young girl from committing suicide. But in this case, there was nothing that the helpless family could have done.
It is the duty of the government to ensure proper living conditions for the women in the country . Apart from NDA’s clean India campaign, a lot needs to be done in terms of sanitation in rural areas.