"Every day was agony – waiting for it to get dark so that there was no one around who could see me."
A judge has granted an Indian woman a divorce from her husband as he provided no toilet for her.
In a case that feels strikingly reminiscent to Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, 23-year-old Sangeeta Mali explained the “mental torture” of having no toilet in the house.
On 25th August 2017, the Rajasthan judge finally granted her divorce from husband Chotu Lal Mali. They first married back in 2011, where Chotu promised Sangeeta that he would build a toilet in their home.
However, during the course of their marriage, no toilet was in sight. This meant that the Indian woman had to walk to nearby fields in their village of Pur to relieve herself. She explained to the judge that this filled her with feelings of shame.
The Indian woman revealed: “He kept saying he would build it but it was just talk. In the end, he refused point blank. My in-laws also refused.
“Every day was agony – waiting for it to get dark so that there was no one around who could see me, forcing me to hold on even though my bladder was bursting. I couldn’t live with the stress any more.”
For two years, Sangeeta Mali decided to travel to her mother’s house to use the toilet there. She eventually filed for divorce at the end of 2015.
After granting the divorce, judge Justice Rajendra Kumar Sharma delivered a statement on the case. He described it as “mental torture” and added:
“Has it ever pained us that our mothers and sisters have to go to defecate in the open? Women in villages have to wait for dark to venture out in order to relieve [themselves] and as a result have to bear … physical pain.”
The story has hit headlines across India, as it bears a strong resemblance to Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, released in August 2017. With Bhumi Pednekar and Akshay Kumar starring in the lead roles, the films depicts a woman threatening to divorce her husband due to having no toilet.
Displaying the struggles women face with this issue, it highlighted how more action needs to be taken. Sangeeta Mali commented on the film’s social message:
“I’m glad they have made it. We need to talk about this every day, everywhere, until we get toilets. The government must move faster. Women are desperate.”
Figures show that 2.3 million people across the world live in areas that have no toilet. A third from this statistic live in India.
To most living in these areas, they view it as the ‘way of the land’, not knowing any better. For many families who live in rural areas, they may place a different focus on their priorities. One that doesn’t concern with toilets, but with survival.
However, with cases such as this making headlines, this could have the potential of making a difference. While Narendra Modi launched the Clean India Mission back in 2014, it’s clear that many locations in India still have poor levels of sanitation.
This means more government aid or funding should be provided to initiatives to improve the issue. Perhaps then the aim of launching 12 million toilets in rural India could happen sooner than 2019?