Lack of adequate public toilets and associated gender-based violence around their use is a matter of concern in many developing countries, including cities like Mumbai. The issue has recently come to the forefront in the media discourse in India. A study was conducted by the University College London on “Perceptions of gender-based violence around public toilets in Mumbai slums”. It states that previous research on the subject suggests absence of lighting, inadequate provision of basic sanitation, poor design and sitting of toilets and lack of police presence in slums as facilitators of violence against women.
However, the evidence is often anecdotal and usually unsystematic. “The exact extent of crimes against women in these circumstances is unknown because unsurprisingly women in slums rarely report crimes to the police, either due to fear or lack of access,” the study abstract says. The paper gauges women’s perception and experience of crime and violence around different types of public toilets in two slums areas in Mumbai. A survey of 142 households was conducted, which indicated that although women’s fear of crime was higher than their actual experience, the perception of insecurity was not uniform for all toilet types and locations.
The findings indicate that there was at least minimal provision of toilet facilities, basic security features, water, and electric supply in the research sites. Furthermore, greater police presence and previous contact with the police in one slum area led to greater confidence in reporting offences to the police compared to the other. Overall, better provision of lighting and regular police patrols were considered, by a majority of those surveyed, to reduce fear of crime around toilets.