• Gender Bender: Brave women who are forced to use public toilets in India

    By Meghna Pant, Features Editor


    I have spent my entire life suffering what I think is my gender’s only defect: having to use India’s unhygienic public toilets. Need I explain?


    Any woman who has bravely attempted to use this ‘public service’ knows that it’s anything but a service. The toilets are dirty, the seats likely to give you a skin infection (and worse), the flushes inactive, the corners crawling with cockroaches, the floors filled with water (and I don’t want to imagine what else), and the walls etched with nude female bodies. We have been told by our mothers and grandmothers to never touch the seat and to squat mid-air, in an excruciating half-lunge, to finish our business while our thighs burn in agony. Going to a public toilet is like going to the underbelly of hell: you may enter but you sure as ‘hell’ cannot leave without some form of Satan’s curse.

    Urban Bathrooms : Pic by GlobalVoices

    Urban Bathrooms : Pic by GlobalVoices


    The fear, and I don’t use the word ‘dread’ for that is too light a feeling, is so deep, that I know many women who pop tablets to restrain any bowel movement on their travels and commute. Some simply hold it in, their faces and bodies contorted in discomfort. And we watch with envy, and I promise this is the only time, as men run to street corners and bushes to lighten their load, as passer bys walk by nonchalantly.


    I know many women who pop tablets to restrain any bowel movement on their travels and commute


    The inability to relieve myself standing up has been my gender’s only curse. And now it seems this curse may finally lift. For a fairy godmother has arrived.


    A New Delhi based startup has launched a device called Pee Buddy. Made from waterproof cardboard Pee Buddy has a single funnel that lets women micturate without having to squat on a dirty toilet seat and risk infection. A woman simply needs to hold Pee Buddy between her legs, directly under the flow area, and tilt her hips slightly forward, ensuring the funnel is tilted downwards. She can pour the urine into a toilet and dispose the product in the nearest bin. Presto! Done!


    To be able to stand up and pee! What a miracle! What a boon!


    Sounds trite but for the millions of women who have suffered silently everyday, experienced pain and discomfort, this is a breakthrough invention. It allows us to maintain our dignity while performing nature’s most fundamental task.


    It saves us from many infections, including the dreaded Urinary Tract Infections (UTI). And it is priced at just Rs 20 per unit. A small price to pay for dignity, self-respect and hygiene.


    Did someone say the Nobel Prize?


    Feature Picture: Dalberg