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Rape, Murder and Lack of Toilets: Let's Stay Angry

Scene from Katra Sahdatganj village, northern India on May 28 (wednesday)

If you have been following the news from Asia in the past few days, you may have heard of the latest act of violence against women that has horrified India: 2 teen age girls abducted, raped and then hanged in a village called Katra Sahdatganj which is about 220 km north-east of New Delhi. The girls were cousins and had gone out to relieve themselves in the bush because their home didn’t have a toilet, when they went missing.

The heart-wrenching story told by one of the girl’s father reveals that the girls were abducted in 27th May (Tuesday) evening. The father went to the police that night, pleaded with them to find his girls, but the policemen on duty refused to either listen or act. In fact, one of them mocked the man who is from a 'lower caste' and said ‘go and check, you may find your girls hanging from a tree’. Next day, just as the policeman had said it, the father – and the rest of the village – indeed saw the girls’ bodies hanging in an orchard.

Since the news came in the light, protests and condemnations have poured in from all quarters. A number of political leaders have visited the girls’ family and expressed their sympathy. The media has been camping in the village and has been reporting many more cases of rape and abduction of women that have taken place in that area. The latest words of condemnation have come from the United Nations which has said, ‘Violence against women is a human rights issue, not a women's issue’.

Now, besides the obvious lack of security for women and good governance, the horrible rape and murder also point out another of India’s ugliest truth: women are increasingly falling prey to sexual predators due to lack of sanitation facilities.
The direct link between lack of sanitation and violence against women is something our social activists have been talking about for years. Social workers have pointed out how women in rural homes without a toilet don’t urinate or pass stool all day long, even if they feel the urge. They relieve themselves either early in the morning before anyone else is up, or after the dusk – when nobody can see them.

What happens when they are seen? Teasing, verbal abuse, molestation, rape and, as we now also see, murder.

Several of our journalists have reported this from time to time. I remember reporting on the issue myself, citing studies that have shown how most adolescent girls who drop out schools do so because they face sexual violence while going into the bush.

So, the studies have been there. The media reports have been there. The danger has been real. Yet the government always choose not to pay any heed.

You may ask, how can a government ignore such an important issue? Well, my own reading is that most of our governments are run by men. Now, it’s no secret that most Indian men are shameless about relieving themselves in the public – you can see how they urinate in broad daylight everywhere - and so, are too thick-skinned to understand the shame and indignity that a woman has to undergo when she has to relieve herself in the open.

The other reason, I think, is that we Indians have a short memory. We forgive and forget very easily. Whether it’s a rape of a woman or burning of a bride for dowry or cutting of the tongue of a teenaged girl, we always are oh- so- ready to put the past behind us and move on. Why? Because we are the great nation of Buddha and Gandhi and so we believe in peace and forgiveness. Also, we have bad things happening here all the time. So, we are eager to move to a happier spot and be at peace.

But while forgiveness is a great virtue and peace is the ultimate goal of life, let’s not abandon our right to be angry altogether. Not when we are forced to urinate and defecate like our cattle do – out in the open. Not when we are raped and hanged in the public just because we wanted to answer a nature’s call. And definitely not when our mostly-men led government thinks such a rape/murder is a isolated occurrence and not such a big deal.

Let’s stay angry and keep fresh in our memory the Katra Sahdatganj girls. Let’s huddle together and talk, of them, of those who are at risk and also of us all who have equal right to vote, but not equal access to the basic amenities

Let’s stay put and demand a definitive change today, tomorrow and until the day it comes. Until then, forgiveness can wait.

1. To UN Statement on the rape and murder :

2. How the chief minister shrugged it all off :

3. One of the many studies that point out the link between lack of sanitation and rape in India


My dear Stella- My heart had been wrecked since I learned of this sickening horror. To say that I am sorry is not enough. Yes, let us stay angry! Let us not stop shouting out! I won't ruin your eloquent entry with my clumsy words. So just know that I stand with you and all of humanity. I will stay angry and stave off forgiveness with you until the end.

I love you.

Let us Hope together-
aka: Cali gal


Stella Paul's picture

Solidarity matters

Dear Michelle

At this moment the sickening stories seem to come in waves - even as I write this reply, I am reading of another girl who has been raped and hanged. Yes, yet another 15 year old, from yet another house that didn't have a toilet, went out and was abducted and raped and killed.

If there's anything that can stop this is our collective protest. So, lets huddle together and protest! There's no other option!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

sunayana's picture

truly said we forget fast

Had we not fòrgotten so fast,by this time we wud have got stringent laws against such henious crime.Rape is the worst of crime.Men donot understand this.Moreover our politician call it just a mistake of men n nothing else.
After this case many cases came forward.
Media though being the forth pillar of democracy tried to not show it under political pressure.
A case in rajasthan when a little girl was raped and poked with burning cigarette all over the face and then thrown into gutter is equally horrifying,while the recent case of girl being forced to drink acid for resisting to be raped.
Is this humanity or men's domination.
Very true that these are not women issue but violation of human right,the right which every citizen is entitled to.

Stella Paul's picture

Thank you!

Dear Sunayana

First let me welcome you to World Pulse - its a great place to be, to speak out and be heard together. I am glad to meet you here for sure! And of course glad to know your thoughts. Oh, and thanks for reading!
Your knowledge of what's happening in Rajasthan intrigues me and I would love to see you writing about them. Please do! So many of us have remained silent for so long, to the loss of ours and to the delight of our politicians and their criminal bed fellows. Lets stop giving them that joy!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Emily Garcia's picture

VAW is a Human Rights Issue!

Dear Stella,

This is tragic. And your comments about not forgiving and forgetting too easily makes me think of what happened two weeks ago in the college community where I used to live in California. There was a mass shooting killing six people. There are many such tragic shootings at schools in the US but we too push them out of our minds so soon, preferring to think of them as freak, isolated incidents when really they are systemic.

Emily Garcia
World Pulse Online Community Lead

I didn't know you went to UCSB!! We are destined to be sisters- I practically grew up in SB and this shooting just ripped my heart out. We can not forget these tragedies! Although we must not let ourselves be discouraged to the point of inaction, we must keep pushing and fighting for change!

Let us Hope together-
aka: Cali gal


Emily Garcia's picture

Michelle! Did you go to UCSB

Michelle! Did you go to UCSB too?! SB is such a beautiful, beautiful place. I felt very lucky to be able to go to school there. I lived in Isla Vista too and it's hard to believe what has just happened there. Such a devastating, horrible, unthinkable tragedy. I don't even have the right words to describe how atrocious it was. I was actually in LA when it happened and heard the news the next morning. It really shook me up. And now these young Indian women have been killed in such a cruel is just too horrible. Yes, we must keep fighting! We must do what we can to eradicate violence against women. Thanks for reaching out.

Emily Garcia
World Pulse Online Community Lead

Dear Stella,

Índia hás just changed the Government. A new President was chosen by the people. Perhaps s the former Government did Forget important issues such as rape and rapists in Índia. Therefore in This stage we cannot assume that the new Givernment of Índia hás forgotten issues related to Rape, rapist etc.

The fact that most of "Government are leaded by Men" does not have any influence in rape cases unless the leaders themselves are Rapists. What is needed in countries like Índia Mozambique etc, is intensive programs for mentality change. We are living modern and post modern World. Man insano countries such as Índia and Mozambique think differently. I remmember in 1977-1984, the Mozambican Government were Busy arresting and imprisoning Girls and Women who usei yo be dressed in trousers short skirts or Snowden the biliboton.

The Man behind that parágraf was not the President who was killed in a plain crash International known as Dictator. Believe me if You want the man behind that law and the parágrafs incrimination Women because of their clothes in a Christia Catholic country where for over 400 years Women were free to dress the way they want as long as they did not Walk arround totaly nacked hás been a President of Mozambique for almost a decade.

I believe that if You realy concentraste on issues related to rape in Índia today and in future the new Government will support You. I also belive that You are in the Right to make changes in important issues like rape, Sanitation and etc.,

I do not advise You to be angry and Stay neithe remain angry. The best Thing to do should be to find a solution to the problem.

Ilda Maria Varela

UWA/ United women of Africa. SADAC - Mozambique

The rape case that Stella listed has taken place after new government came to action , so I think we have right to doubt their work since no major action has been taken till now. Seondly U r ryt that solution should come along with criticism.Thirdly by being angry ,i dont think it means to show anger on face but to consider rape as a burning issue in our heart as the victim of rape must be feeling all the time. Forth very true that mentality needs to be changed. Sixth when we write about these cases ,the reality can come in words only when we put ourself in place of victim., n so Stella rightly says to stay angry and added to it is Maria's point of being solution oriented.

sunayana's picture

rajasthan case

The case that I have listed about Rajasthan rape case is not covered by media because of political pressure. Many such cases are taking place all over northern belt but hardly any come in news.Attaching links where you can find answer to your query.Next month I will be visiting Rajasthan,will enquire ,study and inform you about it.

Funmi Akerele's picture

I am angry too!

In my language there is this popular illustartion of our mannerism when a story or an occurence does not affect us personally , it says when a coffin is being passed in the local market you will never feel the pains of the agrieved, but when the coffin houses one's loved one , we do not need to ask who is in the coffin.

It is a terrible discomfort to know that some people assume authority not to give ears to the plight of girls and women. In some African countries when a woman goes to the police station to report cases of abuse, violence or assault she is either shunned or told to go and learn to be submissive to her husband.

Issues concerning our girls are also given the same fate as we live in a world quiet unsafe for our gender. It is disheartening to learn that somewhere we take the luxury of " Restroom" for granted where some will have to wait for the next day to relieve their bladders. The failure of a government does not permit the mistreatment of a people by its people. I asked myself, why should I be taunted, haunted and mistreated for wanting to relieve myself. It is horrible and until every man and everyone understand the reasons for analysing a horrible incidence like this with the question " what if it happens to me" ,then we may not get the shift we desire.

I will stay angry because in my anger I will give voice to the issues that are related to the injustices and the rape of our rights . I will stay angry and in that state of anger ,I will fight those who want to suppress our existence and take away the pride , happiness in the smiles and eyes of our daughters and also away from us. This is a call to action and a need for us to voice our grievance until we see changes.

Dear Stella I understand your pains and understand your anger. It is neccessary and could be the tool for a rude awakening for those whose horrible actions and deeds towards girls and women should not be left unpunished.

Pink Ambition
Blogger,Author, Coach,Speaker.

My dear Funmi

If we look at the world's worst problems, most of them existed so long because the societies/communities were fighting them alone. But when the issue went global, when people shared the concerns globally, solutions were found!

Reading your comment filled my heart with hope, even in the mist of all the horror. Shared feelings and collective emotion are our greatest strength and we can do so much just by using this strength for the right cause.

Thanks Funmi for doing that! Its one world and we are one family! Lets stand together in solidarity and love

***I checked your Pink Ambition pages. Sending you loads of love and best wishes!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Osai's picture

Understanding Security for Women

Dear Stella,

The brutal rape and death of these young women are just unnecessary. Impunity is what is leading to this flagrant disregard for human life and dignity. The recent incidents in India just show us how we need to begin to define a new language of what security means to women. Who would have imagined that a simple trip to the toilet can lead to rape and death?

Provision of basic amenities and services can go a long way to providing secure and safe places for women and girls. For too long we have looked at gates, guns, alarms, lights as security equipment. We need to expand security tools as not only these obvious items but question: will the provision or access to this protect women? If going outside the comfort of home at night to use an outside toilet exposes me to danger, then my family, community, government need to do something quick about building suitable toilets.

And even if these and other things are put in place and a sexual offence still happens, the state must do all within its power to bring the perpetrators to face the law and ensure that justice is served. This will serve as deterrent and further assure citizens that all people matter. Treating rape like a second class offence has got to stop. Period.

Thanks for sharing.

Warm regards,

Twitter: @livingtruely

Dear Osai

Yes, time changes, so must we and the way we view things.

There was a time when few women traveled in public transport systems. When they did, they waited for a man to get up and vacate the seat for her.

The we had seats reserved for women. Today its been extended to trains, including the subway/metro/sky trains. In the insanely populated buses and trains which become even crazier during the rush hours, these reservation helps our women and girls to travel safe. Well, almost safe. The reservation here acts as a security tool, besides other obvious things.

A toilet is of course one of the basic amenities. But it can also be a security tool - a simple, but effective tool.

I know that as we end the MDG era, the UN is stressing a lot on sanitation (I wish it was this vocal about it right from the beginning) and I hope it will harp on this security issue in its campaigns and directives. Hopefully the government will listen!

Thanks for standing beside me/us in this! Love

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

kvockler's picture

Angry Doesn't Even Describe It!

Well written entry Stella. I had never made a connection in a lack of water and poor sanitation with harassment of women, until now. We take so many things for granted when we have them readily available. It's truly like a domino effect, one thing leads to another. I truly felt angry over learning these facts. Intense fear around having to do something so basic to every human. This part in particular really struck me: "I remember reporting on the issue myself, citing studies that have shown how most adolescent girls who drop out schools do so because they face sexual violence while going into the bush."

Grateful for your perspective, Stella.


Stella Paul's picture

Thanks Kris

Dear Kris

Believe me, there are a lot of people in India as well who don't understand the connection between sanitation and rape. It does not mean that they are insensitive, its just that they can't imagine how life is without a toilet because for them a home usually has a kitchen and a toilet!

In fact, many are saying that when a woman was raped in Delhi in Dec 2012, there was a tsunami of protests. Compared to that, the number of protests that this rape-and -hang case has drawn is way fewer. The reason is, a lot of city-dwellers can't relate to this very characteristic of rural crime at all.

So, I completely understand how difficult it might have been for you to see that poor sanitation-rape connection! And I thank you for trying so hard! This is how we understand the seemingly impossible-to-understand and bridge the difference which is just so important! Love

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Thank you so much for continuing to give a voice to a call for social justice and dignity regarding this issue. That is the height of predatory rapist activity when you wait and take advantage of girls at such a time. The human family must really begin to ask who are the men who can do these things and what are the influences that encourage such behaviour.
Love and appreciation to you for your dedicated and courageous work.
Chi migwetch,
Kichesipirini Algonquin

Paula LaPierre
Principal Sachem
Kichesipirini Algonquin First Nation
Kichi Sibi Anishnabe
Culture is a pillar of sustainable development. Make certain then that is is culture with integrity.

Stella Paul's picture

Thank you Paula

Dear Paula

I use a news aggregator that collects issue-based news everyday from all major news outlets in India. Guess on which issue most news clips are on? Violence against women! Everyday, every single day I get at least 50-60 incidents of crimes committed against girls and women across the width and length of India. But if that is disgusting and sad, then hear this: when I try to tweet/post on facebook about this, I begin to get a series of unfollows!

What does that tell you? That, not only we have lack of security, but also lack of sensitivity! Few of our so called friends want to hear or talk of violence against women. They want it to be confined to intellectual discussions between pundits, in official forums etc, and not be a topic of discussion in our daily life. And that is the reason why the level of violence simply refuses to come down!

So, I thank you - and everyone in world pulse - for not shunning me and instead reading and commenting! I am grateful and hopeful! Love

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

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