According to Canada's The Globe and Mail, the two teenage girls walked out together at night, as they did every night, into the wild bamboo fields 10 or 15 minutes from their mud-and-straw huts to relieve themselves. Like millions of families across India, they had no indoor plumbing.
The two cousins, 14 and 15, respectively, who had the misfortune of being born in a India's low-caste system, were gang-raped by five men, including two active-duty police officers, who seemed unable to do their duty, and alternatively raped and hung the two cousins, rather than protect them.
The horrific incident occurred last week on May 28.
According to the United Nations, statistics reveal that India’s 1.2 billion people, 665 million of them, mostly those residing in the countryside, don’t have access to a private toilet or latrine, something taken for granted in developed nations.
Some villages do have public bathrooms, but many women avoid using them because they are usually overused and because men often hang around and harass the women and girls.
According to Louis-Georges Arsenault, UNICEF's representative in India, stated that roughly 65% of the rural population in India defecates in the open and women and girls are expected to go out at night. This not only threaten their dignity, but their security as well."
COMMENT: It is indeed tragic that human beings are so poorly respected in India that the brutality of the country has so little respect for human life that people are not even capable of relieving themselves without being murdered.
Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of the Sulabh Sanitation and Social Reform Movement – a group that helps build low-cost toilets across India – estimates the country needs about 120 million more latrines.
Since the gang-rape and brutal hanging of the two cousins, Pathak's consortium has decided to construct toilets in 108 houses in the girls’ village of Katra Sadatganj in the northern, densely populated state of Uttar Pradesh.
The 14- and 15-year-old cousins were Dalits, at the bottom of Hinduism’s caste hierarchy – making them even more vulnerable to attacks from men, particularly of higher castes.
After the girls had left, an uncle went out to make sure the cows hadn’t trampled his patch of mint, THE INDIAN EXPRESS reported. He heard some screams and shone his flashlight toward four men dragging the girls away across the fields. He was threatened with a gun.
“More than 60% of the rapes in the state occur when the victims step out to relieve themselves because they do not have toilets in their homes,” Ashish Gupta told reporters in the state capital of Lucknow.
In April, two women and two teenagers were raped out in the fields in the northern state of Haryana. Those women were also Dalits and their attackers were Jats, members of a higher caste.
India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party promised “toilets before temples” in their election manifesto.
In Uttar Pradesh, a massive sanitation project was launched in collaboration with the federal government in 2002 to build toilets, yet the most recent 2011 data shows that only 22% of the state’s households have them.
While the village waits for Pathak’s group to build toilets, a local women’s rights organization simply alerted all women and girls to "move in large groups."