Monday 20 January 2020

Woman given permission to divorce husband after he refused to build a toilet in their home

Stock photo
Stock photo

Rahul Bedi

An Indian court has granted a woman permission to divorce her husband after he consistently refused to build a toilet in their home, forcing her to relieve herself in the open.

Family court judge Rajendra Kumar Sharma in India’s western Rajasthan state ruled on 18 August that a toilet was a necessity in every home and defecating in the open was ‘disgraceful’ for society and ‘torture’ for women.

“In villages women have to wait until sunset to answer nature's call. This is not only physical cruelty, but also outraging the modesty of a woman” the judge ruled.

People spend money buying tobacco, alcohol and mobile phones, but are unwilling to construct toilets to protect the dignity of their family, he added.

The woman’s counsel said she was married in 2011 to a labourer and filed for divorce four years later citing cruelty by her husband, as he was unable to provide the couple a separate room or a toilet.

Divorce under Indian law is granted once proof of cruelty, violence or undue financial demands are proven in a family court.

Media reports from Rajasthan’s Bhilwara district, where the woman lives, said she would now formally file for divorce.

This is not the first time that a toilet has played a decisive role in a marriage in India.

In June a wife refused to return home to her husband in northern Uttar Pradesh state until he built a toilet in their home. It came a few months after another woman in the same province refused to marry until a loo was installed in her bridal home.

Over 60 per cent of India’s 1.25 billion people still defecate in the open, posing a significant risk of rape and sexual assualt to women, in addition to the exposure to infection.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi launched a nationwide crusade to build toilets after assuming office in May 2014, but little progress has been made.

And even where toilets have been built, studies show that the majority were not been used because they are not linked to a water supply, unconnected to proper sewage lines and are unbearably putrid.

According to a recent government survey, more Indians owned a mobile telephone than had access to a toilet.

Tens of millions of people relieving themselves in the open each morning, particularly along railway tracks, is a common sight across India and one highlighted by social and environmental activists.

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