Marking World Toilet Day: Campaigning for the Right to Pee

November 19 marked World Toilet Day, a day designated by the United Nations to draw attention to the need to improve sanitation conditions around the world. According to the United Nations, a $1 investment in providing safe water and sanitation generates a $4.3 return in the form of reduced health care costs. The United Nations has set as a goal to halve the proportion of people without access to sanitation. Currently around 1 billion people (or 15% of the world’s population) lacks access to toilets, increasing the risk of people, particularly children, dying from diarrheal disease.

In India, campaigners have been carrying out the Right to Pee campaign, drawing attention to the unequal practice of charging women to use toilets in large cities while men can use urinals for free. Campaigners claim that this practice forces poor women to relieve themselves in fields and alleyways, increasing risk of rape and sexual assault. They have demanded the government provide free access to urinals for women in major cities.

What do you think? What could governments in both the global North and South do to improve access to sanitation around the world? Is there a right to sanitation? Should there be? Why?

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