By Sharanya Gopinathan
Thanks to a new rule imposed by the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), toilets in private South Delhi restaurants and eateries will now become ‘public’, meaning that they have to allow anyone to use them. They can provide this service free or charge a fee for it, but the fee cannot be above five rupees. This is similar to a system that many eateries in Europe follow.
SDMC commissioner Puneet Kumar Goel told the Times of India that the fee was to kept under five rupees so that people from all economic backgrounds could use the toilets when in need. He also said that the move was largely in place to fulfil the needs of women in marketplaces, who face problems due to lack of available toilets.
In 2013, Sujata Khandekar of the NGO CORO, which was working on a project called Right to Pee said to The Ladies Finger, “There are fewer or no public urinals and toilets for women because women, by traditional gender definitions, are supposed to stay at home. We’ve found that sabziwalis and other working women, have for years trained themselves to not urinate for eight to ten hours in a day. You know the kind of gynaecological, urinary tract and kidney problems that can cause? Worse if you are pregnant because that causes an increase in the pressure you are feeling.”
So South Delhi’s new move seems like a welcome one for women, who face a variety of problems because there aren’t toilets that can serve their needs in public. But according to the Times of India, South Delhi restaurant owners seem to be unhappy at the rule. They say that it infringes upon their right to reserve admission, which always did seem super classist anyway, but they make an interesting point when they complain that private companies are being made to shoulder an unfair bargain. The issue certainly does shed some light on something important: the government’s visible inaction when it comes to building and maintaining public toilets for women.
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