NEW DELHI (Sputnik) — An Indian woman has formally dissolved her marriage due to irreconcilable differences: her husband had refused to have a restroom installed in the family home, insisting that she relieve herself outside. A family court in Bhilwara, Rajasthan annulled the marriage of five years, describing the case as "equivalent to outraging a woman's modesty."
The woman first approached the court in 2015, saying that despite repeated requests, her husband simply wouldn't construct a toilet or bathroom at home. She pleaded that she had to wait until dusk to go out to the fields to defecate, which she felt undermined her dignity. The judge was of the view that forcing someone to defecate outdoors was a form of torture.
Open defecation is one of India's most pressing sanitation and public health issues. UNICEF says that nearly half of India's population — almost 600 million people — defecates in the open. Although 90 percent of Indians have access to mobile phones, a whopping 70 percent of households do not have toilets, making the country home to more open latrines than anywhere else on earth.
"The case is unique as it grants a divorce on a ground hitherto unheard of in India. Divorce is only granted in India if proof [soemthing] such as cruelty, violence or undue financial demands are shown in court. But if courts start granting divorce on the basis of lack of toilets, it empowers women and could put in additional pressure on families to provide toilets for them at home. Divorce, which is another taboo in Indian society, could actually help fight the other taboo of not having toilets inside the home," Akhilesh Kumar, senior advocate at New Delhi's Patiala Court told Sputnik.
This is not the first time marriages have suffered in India due to such a problem. Last year a woman refused to tie the knot in Uttar Pradesh after her fiance refused to build a toilet in the house. In June this year, another woman refused to return to the home of her in-laws until they constructed a toilet.
The Modi government has launched an ambitious mission named ‘Clean India' which aims to ensure that each household gets a toilet by 2019. Government statistics claim that 45 million toilets have been constructed since the start of the mission in 2014. But it is yet to be verified whether these toilets are actually being used.
According to a statement from the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, the main reason for open defecation is the behavior and mindset of the people, who have continued the practice for centuries. Adequate availability of water for flushing toilets is also a major concern.