India: 'Walls of shame' against outdoor defecation

Women holding signs calling for an end to open defecation Image copyright AFP
Image caption Millions of Indians do not have access to basic sanitation

A district in eastern India has announced plans to publicly shame people who defecate in the open into using toilets, it's reported.

Villages in the Nadia district in West Bengal are setting up "walls of shame" featuring the names and photos of people caught relieving themselves in public, according to a PTI news agency report on the NDTV website. Local authorities want villagers to form committees to monitor people who continue to defecate outdoors. The aim is to make it a "social crime", a local government official tells the agency. "This is being done to attach a sense of stigma and shame for those defecating in the open," PB Salim says, adding that while toilets have been built, persuading some people to use them is another matter. "People who have been going out in the open for generations cannot be expected to use toilets suddenly," he says. Anyone "shamed" on the walls will have some government benefits suspended, although these would be restored when they change their habits, says Mr Salim.

A 2011 census showed that nearly half of the Indian population had no access to a latrine, meaning more than 500 million people were defecating in the open. One farmer tells PTI he knows about the serious health risks posed, but says people are driven by social norms. "Throughout my life I saw no one in my neighbourhood using toilets," he says. "Now things are changing, but it takes time."

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