January 18

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To Poo in Peace

Everyone poops. Since the late-70s children have been learning this reality of life with a particularly insightful book. I have no idea how people found out about poop before then, but I’m sure it wasn’t as colorful. For me, pooping is a highlight of my day—a cherished moment of peace usually followed by what my wife calls my “poop strut.” And absolutely nothing can go wrong on the always joyous two-poop-day. When my wife and I got married, we (only half-jokingly) talked about combining our last names to Pooping. I could envision the painted rock in our front lawn with a cursive script that read The Poopings. We didn’t change either of our last names, but we did get this as a wedding present:

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But for some women, pooping means death. In India, more than half the population lacks access to toilets—that is more than 600 million people. Aside from diseases spread by this sanitation problem, having to travel to a field after dark to poop exposes women to horrible brutality. Every 30 minutes, a woman in India is raped, and more than 60% of these rapes occur when women go outside to relieve themselves. An 18-year-old woman who gets up at 4 AM every morning to “use the toilet” (i.e. bamboo field) with the other women and girls in her family says, “We go straight to the toilet and back. Never deviate. Never go alone. And if we see a boy, we shout at him. Always be aggressive.”

 

In May of last year, two teenage girls were gang raped and hanged from a mango tree when they went outside at night to defecate. In response to this tragedy, a non-profit organization, Sulabh International, installed 108 toilets in that village. Since this organization was founded in 1970, Sulabh became the largest non-profit in India, with more than 50,000 volunteers and has installed toilets in 1.3 million Indian households.  It doesn’t take much arithmetic to figure out how many women’s lives may have been saved simply by installing these outhouse-style toilets near their homes.

 

As encouraged as I am about the prospect of this flourishing toilet project to protect women from violence, part of me considers this one of the just-don’t-leave-your-house solutions. If women never left the house, nothing bad would happen to them. That mindset is just unacceptable. Women shouldn’t have to stay barricaded in their home just to survive. And defecation shouldn’t come with the fear of death every day.

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