In the northern Indian state of Haryana, courtship is generally intricate business, but the mothers of the brides-to-be have simplified matters by clearing stating to potential grooms: “If you don’t have a toilet, you cannot marry my daughter.”
The slogan, which is a bit longer in Hindi and specifically reads: “If you don’t have a proper lavatory in your house, don’t even think about marrying my daughter,” has been plastered all across villages as part of a campaign to increase the number of available facilities.
The chronic shortage of proper plumbing is ironic in a region of the country where more households have TV sets than toilets.
Believe it or not, it is estimated that in India more than 660 million people still defecate in the open, causing a myriad of medical conditions ranging from diarrhea to polio.
With 8% more men than women, the fairer sex in India have become more vocal about expressing their resentment at having to relieve themselves outside, giving brides more leverage in pre-marital bargaining.
“Women suffer the most from this situation. They must go outside and they have to do so before sunrise or after nightfall so they can’t be seen,” said Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh, a company that has built toilets for ten million Indians, and the recipient of this year’s Stockholm Water Prize for developing eco-friendly lavatories to improve public health.
The campaign has yielded very positive results. About 1.4 million lavatories have been built in the state since 2005, many of them with significant government subsidies. “We have more toilets, less shame among women and less disease,” said S.K.Monda, the official in charge of the program.
There are still those who fight progress, as some upper-caste communities are not happy having lavatories in their homes because it is believed such an arrangement is unclean.