Why is an ad for plumbing pipes in India is the latest viral sensation? It draws attention to the pervasive problem of open defecation and urination in India, while highlighting the struggles women face because they don’t have access to toilet.
Though the ad is lighthearted, the topic is not. Open defecation contributes to diarrhea-related deaths of 200,000 children under the age of 5 in India, the highest number of such deaths in the world. And women and girls risk sexual assault when they try to find privacy at night.
The ad begins with a group of men “answering nature’s call” in a field. A group of veiled women surround the men and chant, mocking them for relieving themselves in a public space.
The men ask the women to consider their pride and let them have some privacy. The women draw attention to their experiences of open defection, singing: “Is there pride in stepping out late at night? Is there pride in getting Eve-teased? Is there pride in being raped?”
Their demand? “Why can’t a woman have a toilet at home?”
The ad concludes with the men committing to building toilets in their homes to uphold the privacy and dignity of women in the community.
The ad comes from Astral Pipes, which manufactures plumbing and drainage systems, and calls attention to the serious issue of lack of toilets in India.
More than half of the world’s toilet-less population live in India. That’s a whopping 564 million people—nearly half India’s total population—that do not have access to a toilet. Open defecation is a serious public health concern that contributes to the spread of disease, malnutrition, and stunting (impaired growth and development in children).
Women and girls are disproportionately burdened by the lack of private toilets. Many develop infections from infrequent urination and poor hygiene during menstruations. Without private toilets, women and girls face unwanted sexual remarks and advances and sometimes physical assault.
In 2014, two teenage girls were sexually assaulted and murdered when trying to find a place to discreetly go to the toilet. The event caused an international outcry, nevertheless, women and girls throughout the world continue to endure sexual harassment and assault due to the lack of private toilets.
The lack of access to toilets in public spaces and in homes also increases the likelihood of girls dropping out of school once they begin menstruating.
There is increasing social pressure for the construction of private toilets. Many “marriage-aged” men are pressured into constructing household toilets before marriage.
Astral Pipes has joined the campaign with its #EveryWomansRight initiative. The initiative strives to inspire, educate, and empower the masses to take action to fight for the dignity and health of women by encouraging the construction of toilets.