No relief: lived experiences of inadequate sanitation access of poor urban women in India
The provision of sanitation in India has attracted much attention, but research and policies focusing on gender in relation to sanitation often fail to focus on sanitation-related violence against women (VAW). This article focuses on research in Pune (in Maharashtra) and Jaipur (in Rajasthan). It offers evidence of slum-dwelling women’s experiences of harassment and violence related to poor or absent sanitation facilities. In addition, it explores the strategies that women adopt to minimise risk and stress. Sanitation-related violence shows the connections between slum geographies and unequal intra-slum relationships of gender, caste, and economic and marital status, and the types of sanitation facilities available. These different identities shape women’s experiences of VAW and they commonly blame men from ‘outside’ or ‘other’ groups, affecting their ability to act as a united group against violence. While sanitation is inadequate and inappropriate for women’s needs across castes, community cohesion and the chances of collective action and advocacy to address sanitation needs are also compromised by tensions between groups in the slum.
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