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The South Delhi Municipal Corporation’s decision to open all toilets in hotels and restaurants for the general public has been taken keeping in mind the limited access that the general public, especially women, have to toilets in markets and public spaces, officials told The Indian Express on Wednesday. “The suggestion came to us from the office of the Lieutenant Governor and we consulted many people, including owners of restaurants and hotels, before we decided to implement the decision from April 1. The main aim is to add to the facilities that are currently in use, especially for women,” said SDMC spokesperson, Mukesh Yadav.
“The corporation issues health trade licences to restaurants and hotels, and starting April 1, the condition that the toilets remain open to the public, even if for a charge not exceeding Rs 5, will be added to these licence agreements. It is not an abdication of our responsibility to provide these services, only an addition to our ongoing efforts,” Yadav added. Yadav said there are 1,100 public toilets in the area that falls under the jurisdiction of the SDMC. Of these, only 140 are for women.
“Opening up the toilets in hotels and restaurants will help us add 3,500 more toilets to the existing capacity. The best part is that the safety aspect of toilets will be covered easily, especially for women,” he said. While restauranteurs have raised an objection to the decision, Yadav said that there was wide acceptance for it. “This was not a one-sided decision and all stakeholders were involved. If someone still has problems, we will sit together and sort it out. The public has appreciated the decision a lot,” he said.
Spaces for women to relieve themselves in public areas are very limited in the city. Even for those women who have access to toilets in their houses, there is no guarantee that they will have access to toilets when they go out to work. According to a small survey conducted by the NGO ActionAid India in 2016, of the 12 working-class women interviewed, eight had suffered from either a stomach or urinary tract infection recently.
The survey was part of an audit carried out in seven cities in India under the ‘Where to Pee’ campaign. Yadav says the corporation is working to build 200 more toilets in the coming financial year. All 200 will have facilities for women as well.