Last month, two sisters from Badaun district, Uttar Pradesh were allegedly raped and murdered when they went to answer the call of nature in the fields at night. Most people in Dharavi do not have toilets in their residence.We asked four adolescents in Dharavi how safe they felt when they visit the nearby toilet.
Pratibha, 14, studies in class 9
We have a mori at home where we can have a bath and pee. For bathroom (meaning WC), I have to walk about five minutes. I go just once a day in the morning. I do not feel the need to go after that.
I heard about a girl being molested there. Some boy who was on the way to the toilet caught her. I also heard of a five year old girl being molested there. It became a police case.
If the boys say or do something, it spoils our reputation. Our fathers too.
If I have to use the toilet in the night, my mother comes with me. Or else a friend comes along.
Hetal, 13, studies in class 6
We have a bathroom at home, not a latrine. For that I have to step out and walk for five minutes. We have to pay one Rs to use the latrine. I use it around 2-3 times.
I never go to the toilet alone if I can help it, especially in the night. My mother has told me that whether it is night or day, take someone along to the toilet. She usually comes with me, or else I go with my friend. Only when she is sick, I go alone.
I have heard of rape cases in that area. When I was a child, I was told that there was a bus which stopped there and picked girls for begging.
There are always boys on the way to the toilet. They come around 9 pm every night. They come with bikes sometimes. They say things like – palat ke dekh (turn around and look at me). I once shouted back at them and said – Ghar main ma behen nahi (Do you not have mothers and sisters at home)? My mother had told me never to confront those boys, but I was very upset that day.
It is not fair that we do not have toilets at home. One of my friends did not use the toilet all night because her mother was not at home and her friend refused to come. Her stomach started hurting.
Boys have nothing to be scared of. They are the ones who trouble us. We girls have to be careful.
Kruti, 18, goes to college.
I do not live in a nice area. Many people who I grew up with left the area. It is not safe for girls. Many people in my area already have bathrooms inside their houses. There are hardly any people using the public toilets any more.
Till recently we had a horrible public toilet. It used to be so dirty. I would not like to go there. I would wait for half an hour to an hour to just use the toilet. Many times I have been late for school. Now we have one toilet for every ten houses. It is easier to keep to it clean and I do not have to wait long to use it.
I go to the toilet alone. It is just two minutes away. On the way to the toilet, we always find men around. Sometimes they just say something obscene and walk away. Men play cards or match (cricket) near the toilet. They always make comments.
I do not pay attention if someone makes a comment. If I confront that person, people will point their fingers at me only. They will say she must have done something to provoke the boys. It is best not to say anything.
One girl I know confronted these men who were passing obscene comments. But when she went home and told her parents about it, she was told – Tujhe hi sahi se jaana chahiye (You should have stepped out decently). They told her that she should not have worn jeans and T shirt.
I felt bad for her. She did not wear those clothes to show anything or provoke. She just stepped out to go to the toilet. In any case, even if you wear a dupatta and leave, you cannot hide your body. The men are going to comment anyway.
There is no light near the toilet or inside the toilet in the night. The bulb just does not switch on. We have to take a torch. It is just fully dark. I have to take someone along if I want to use the toilet at night.
My mother has always told me not to talk to my friends near the toilet. If I go to the toilet in the afternoon, I feel weird. There is no one there.
Vineet, 14, studies in class 9
The toilet is just one minute away. There are men smoking cigarette and drinking liquor there. My father has told me not to talk to anyone there. I am a little scared of them. They could beat me up if they want to. I always go with my father.
The toilet is sometimes very dirty. I have to wait for it for about 45 minutes to an hour. I sometimes get late to school. I do not go to the toilet even if I want to sometimes. It gives me a stomach ache.
I have seen girls being molested near the toilet. It is horrible. The boys sometimes pull their clothes, their hair. We try intervene sometimes. But, such incidents scare me. These incidents should not happen.
(Names of the adolescents withheld to protect identity)