The Indian lower classes are slowly but steadily waking up to the problems of open defecation and a growing trend is emerging among women: they deny or delay marriages to men who are unable to provide them with toilet facilities.
"No toilet, no marriage". The message is loud and clear for the prospective in-laws of Jeenat and Kajal, residents of Aamor village in Firozabad district in Northern India. The sisters have asked their fiancés to either install toilets in their homes or find other brides.
These progressive steps could make Jeenat and Kajal the new poster girls for the Modi Government's Swachh Bharat' (Clean India) campaign. The siblings have told the family of grooms-to-be to build the toilet before the date of the 'Nikaah' (as Muslim marriages are called) on May 9.
Although both sisters left school after the 5th grade, they understand the importance of having a toilet in the house. Acknowledging that they had been inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's campaign against open defecation, the girls have been using the toilet in their home for last two years. Their mother, Hameedan, who never attended school, fully supports her daughters' decision.
The best thing is that the grooms' families have taken up the challenge and have promised to fulfill the demand before the Nikaah ceremony. They're even going the extra mile by promising to send photographs of their newly built toilets to the girls for approval.
This is not the first time when ‘wedding vows' have been preceded by demands for toilets. Several weeks ago, a woman from Kanpur refused to tie the knot with a man who could not keep his promise to install an indoor toilet.
The target population has responded with much enthusiasm to the Swach Bharat campaign, India's ambitious toilet-construction program. It is now a part of the nationwide campaign that is tasked with making India open-defecation free by 2019.
However, the current numbers are sobering. According to data released by the Union Urban Development Ministry, only 1.32 million of these toilets have been built; the target is to install 2.5 million of them in 2015-16.