Uttar Pradesh rape and murder of cousins who were grabbed while using a field as a toilet (India) - and Violence, Gender and WASH
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TOPIC: Uttar Pradesh rape and murder of cousins who were grabbed while using a field as a toilet (India) - and Violence, Gender and WASH

Violence, gender and WASH toolkit - and general discussion about gender based violence (GBV) in the context of WASH 28 Jun 2014 14:04 #9150

  • sjhouse
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[This is the start of Page 4 of the discussion. To access earlier pages, please use the square page buttons above or below]

Dear all,

First of all please let me apologise for the long post but there are a number of areas I would like to reflect on.

It has been interesting reading through the posts (even if I am behind time-wise in reading them) and it is great that the issue of the links between violence and WASH (or otherwise) are being discussed, so much appreciation to the forum. I am one of the authors of the newly released practitioner's toolkit on Violence, Gender and WASH that Dietvorst has mentioned (violence-WASH.lboro.ac.uk) which has been developed over the past year and a half and has been co-published by 27 organisations.

I have particularly appreciated the posts by Rose (about her concern about us becoming polarised and not working together), Alex (about his feelings of being a father and what he wishes for his children), Dietvorst (who noted the tendency of those working in the media and advocacy to sometimes over simplify things) and Leith (who talks about more practical issues related to safety and WASH).

Being part of the development of this toolkit has been a very eye-opening experience and I have to admit that as an engineer by background I have learnt many things that I didn't really want to learn, including some that almost took my breath away. What has been really inspiring about the work over the past year and a half has been being able to work across sectors - we had inputs from professionals working in protection, gender-based violence (GBV), gender, women's empowerment, law, psychology, health, education and WASH and others; and you will see if you look at the 27 co-publishing organisations that these include a range of organisations including those working on gender based violence/violence, women's empowerment, protection and WASH. It has been motivating and heartening to see the high level of enthusiasm and support from the protection / gender based violence experts on the work we have been trying to do to see what as WASH practitioner's we can practically do, to be able to do our part in reducing vulnerabilities to violence.

I have been interested in this discussion, which as with any discussion is important to have, but like Rose, I have to admit that I worry sometimes with the negativity and polarisation on the issue, because as much as I agree that poor access to WASH is not the root cause of violence, I also don't believe that just stating the obvious - that imbalance of power between males and females or between people of different societal groups is the real root cause of violence - will itself also alone solve the problem. And I also worry that because as a sector we have struggled for many years to even get a commitment from everyone that considering gender is important, that blogs such as the one by the International Resource Centre (IRC),whilst clearly well intentioned (as I am sure the original media related statements were as well, even with their gaps in the nuances as astutely noted by Dietvorst); risks potentially not helping to resolve the issue, but in relation to our sector, risks giving a new excuse to those within the WASH sector who may prefer to continue to not consider issues related to gender or to violence.

As various people posting here have noted, violence and gender-based violence (GBV) is a complex issue and it is one that will probably take generations for significant and long-term change - very sadly there are no quick fixes. For anyone who has had the privilege to work in communities for long periods of time and see changes in gender relations over that time will realise that such change does not happen overnight just because of one action or an organisation coming in and saying it needs to happen. Changes happen because men and women themselves make the decision that such changes are beneficial. In the development context contributions may include the inputs of various actors (including WASH actors) engaging over time who have considered gender in their work providing opportunity for debate and reflection and providing opportunities to experience how things can be done differently; but such decisions to change behaviour will be influenced by a range of other factors happening in parallel - such as changes in government legislation, the strengthening of the judiciary, the influence of role models at different levels (both male and female), girls getting more of an opportunity to have an education, peer pressure etc etc. Such change processes in gender dynamics occurring over time, apply as much in the society I come from in the UK, as much as in a rural village in Africa, an urban area in Asia, or a community in the Balkans or South America.

It is the complexity of the issue, and the awareness that change will only happen over time and if multiple actors engage to do their part, that leads me to support Rose's feelings that this is a subject on which we should not be polarised on, but be working on together to find solutions.

The idea for the toolkit started after a discussion at the UCH conference in 2012 where there was an acknowledgement that anecdotal examples come up on a regular basis where women and girls in particular have faced harassment or other forms of violence when using WASH facilities or when practicing open defecation; but that the practitioners in the room noted that as WASH actors they didn't really know what they should be doing differently.

When we started the learning and research which has eventually led to the practitioner's toolkit, we basically had more or less a blank piece of paper and were not sure what we would come out with at the end. But through collecting together a range of case studies of violence linked to WASH and examples of work that different organisations are already trying on the ground, discussion with professionals across the range of sectors noted above, and a lot of thought and a multi-stage review process also involving a range of professionals, it became clear that there are things that as WASH practitioner's that we can and should be doing, which have the potential to reduce vulnerabilities to violence. We feel that we should be doing what is in our power, doing our part within the limits of our professional responsibilities, to try and reduce such vulnerabilities wherever it is realistically possible. If anyone is interested, on the website the co-publishers have prepared a joint statement which clarifies the purpose and limits of the toolkit and why we felt it important to produce it.

I could talk a lot more about the examples found and discussed in the toolkit - both case studies and promising approaches, but this post is already very long. Perhaps I can just note that the range of types of violence that were highlighted which had some form of link to WASH were broader than we first were thinking when we started (physical, psychological, sexual, socio-cultural and including those related to domestic violence), they not only involved men being violent towards women and girls although a large proportion were (they also included violence against boys and women also being the perpetrators in some cases) and violence was not only learnt about at community and household levels (but also against staff and by staff).

For those of you who may not engage in the emergency sector, you might be interested to know that the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), Guidelines for GBV Interventions in Humanitarian Settings (2005) is currently being updated (contact available on the events page of the toolkit website). The guidelines do not focus on guidance specifically for protection professionals, but guidance for the professionals working in 16 different sectors of which WASH is one (others include shelter, health, education etc). It aims to help professionals in these sectors know what they can do better to practically play their part in reducing vulnerabilities to violence. We have engaged throughout the process of developing the practitioner's toolkit with the team of gender-based violence (GBV) experts who are leading the process of development of the guidelines for GBV in humanitarian settings, and I note that there has been no resistance that as WASH professionals we should not be engaging 'because this is a gender-based violence/human rights/women's empowerment/protection issue and not a WASH issue', but rather a strong encouragement that the sector increasing its consideration of protection issues in our work, is a positive step forward and that we should all be playing our part.

There is a lot of learning still needed on this issue. We hope that if you are working on this issue in your organisations or on the ground including if you are trialling improvements to approaches, whether using the toolkit or otherwise, we would love to hear about the learning you have gone through. Email contact can be found on the website.

Best wishes,

Sarah House
Sarah House
Freelance Public Health / WASH Engineer
Last Edit: 08 Jul 2014 07:44 by muench.
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Re: Uttar Pradesh rape and murder of cousins who were grabbed while they were using a local field as a toilet (India) 06 Jul 2014 06:51 #9249

  • Sowmya
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Dear Sarah,

I am sorry about the delay in posting a reply. I have read the WASH pratitioners’ toolkit and I think tremendous amount of work has gone into it equaled only by the commitment and dedication. We, as a community, need a toolkit such as this and I am glad to have read it.

There are a few points I would like to write about:

1. Importance of resolving gender-based violence (GBV):
[Though this thread has been using the term ‘sexual violence’, I would like to start using the term ‘GBV’ henceforth. GBV is wider in scope but would like to do so anyway unless the context specifically requires otherwise.]

The first time the magnitude of GBV struck me when I heard of the key statistic - that 1 in 3 women face a lifetime risk - during a healthcare course. While 1 in 3 women actually face the risk of going through such an event, there is no way to identify who these women would be or the timing. It could happen to anyone which makes the problem larger.

No woman has a 0% risk of facing GBV the way
everyone has 100% protection against the risk of contracting smallpox.

This is a huge statistic. Thus, there is no human rights, social or development sector issue that is as pervasive as GBV – and this is the real significance of the GBV issue.

When we look at prioritizing development of solutions, we should start from solutions that can bring benefits across sectors (effectiveness perspective) and solutions in sectors where the problems cause maximal negative impact on human welfare (magnitude perspective). Implementing the right sanitation technologies help to achieve gains across sectors (health, gender, agriculture and environment for instance) and should be prioritized based on effectiveness perspective. Considering the pervasiveness of GBV, it should be given top priority from magnitude perspective.

When effectiveness and magnitude perspectives come together as happens with linkages between lack of sanitation and GBV, there is a very powerful argument for finding and implementing solutions.

2. Inputs for a solutions framework:
I am not a gender expert and these are just my thoughts:

Envisioning the solution: For a comprehensive solutions framework, we need to envision our destination as a “society vaccinated against GBV”. A society where GBV cannot manifest at all. This focus could form the guiding principle for development of solutions as well as the basis for inter-sectoral collaboration for accelerated problem-solving.

Mapping the movement: Applying the framework of technology adoption lifecycle (innovators – early adopters – early majority – late majority – laggards) to the global movement for eradicating GBV, we have probably reached the state of early adopters with legislations passed in several countries and continuing efforts to raise awareness and increase the involvement of the general public to reach the stage of early majority.

The GBV movement is an overarching concept that has several sub-movements that arise and move towards completion. Every solution (be it a legislation or a product like a pepper spray or identifying street lighting as a solution to reducing vulnerable instances) can be mapped as an unique sub-movement and goes through a technology adoption process. Applying this framework enables us to map the current stage of the movement as well as analyze the requirements for each solution.

How to reach early majority: This requires that we build capacity of people and a framework for people to participate in the movement. This requires both training to build confidence and competence (as stated in the WASH toolkit) as well as an identity rooted in human rights that guides individual decision-making, builds their inner resilience for continued participation and forms the basis for determining what provisions can be made available to facilitate the process required for the movement to go forward. The framework can help articulate and build that rights-based self-identity sooner and with more effectiveness.

Questions for finding way forward: How do we develop the framework for the rights-based identity that actively supports an individual to make greater contribution to the movement? How do we collate the experiences and personal journeys of the proponents (who support the movement) as well as the survivors and build them into a narrative that supports adoption of the rights-based identity?

Rationale: This is critical for one reason: Referring again to the technology adoption lifecycle map, innovation happens in a series of exploring pathways, identifying what works and what does not. The innovators – both proponents and survivors – have a personal journey and each of them had found their own personal insights to help them on their journey. An understanding of these insights will help us understand the optimal building blocks for a common narrative that the early adopters can adopt.

Conclusion: We can view any solution from the perspective of the technology adoption lifecycle. Along with training for building confidence and competence, we need to develop a rights-based identity framework and a common narrative for wider adoption of the solution. Insights from the innovators’ journeys can help find the insights for identifying the optimal building blocks for both the identity framework and common narrative.

Are there any research studies or other work on the rights-based identity framework and common narrative for wider adoption of the solution in the GBV-eradication domain?

Thanks and regards,

Sowmya Rajasekaran
Verity SmartLife Solutions

Re: Uttar Pradesh rape and murder of cousins who were grabbed while they were using a local field as a toilet (India) 07 Jul 2014 13:59 #9255

  • sjhouse
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Hi Sowmya,

Thanks very much for your interesting post. Yes I agree that GBV is a huge human rights, public health and social development issue. And it is interesting to consider how technical developments like the introduction of pepper spray, street lighting etc have the potential to contribute to reducing vulnerabilities, and how the level of adoption, for a range of reasons, will affect their potential scale of impact.

As part of the development of the toolkit we made an attempt to show how the reduction in vulnerabilities to violence supports a number of international human rights related protocols, conventions and agreements (see Briefing Note 2 page 13-14 and potentially useful clauses which have been extracted from a range of international legal instruments in Toolset 7). Toolset 7 was developed to assist those who would like to go deeper in considering the role that improving access to WASH and reducing vulnerabilities to violence can contribute to the attainment of human rights. This may be used, for example, for advocacy with staff and partners or when persuading donors to fund programmes which contribute to reducing vulnerabilities to violence.

In general though, for the toolkit we were trying to focus mainly on the practical things that we can do as WASH practitioner's to help reduce vulnerabilities to violence, rather than focussing too much on the theoretical frameworks for the same (although these also obviously also have their own value particularly at the policy level).

You probably know already that in September this year The Handbook on the Realisation of the Human rights to Water and Sanitation will be launched. It will be available in English, French Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic and will be available on the 'righttowater' website (www.righttowater.info/handbook-introduction/) as a PDF with links (as well as being available in hardcopy). This may be useful for the consideration of where the reduction in vulnerabilities to violence fits within the wider human rights framework.

Best wishes,

Sarah House
Freelance Public Health / WASH Engineer
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Re: Uttar Pradesh rape and murder of cousins who were grabbed while using a field as a toilet (India) - and Violence, Gender and WASH 21 Aug 2014 07:36 #9831

  • Alex
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Dear SuSanA,

It took me a while to take up this theme again, but I would like to provide some lessons learnt from my recent trip to Uttar Pradesh (UP). I went there on a different assignment but used the opportunity to look also into the terrible incident that was discussed here in the forum and what has happened afterwards. I had some quite depressing insights into the situation. However, I believe that we need to still react to the toilet situation in India and elsewhere…

Political economy of UP

As also mentioned by others in this forum before, we need to realize that this kind of crimes are in fact (and very sadly) quite frequent in India. This one was outstanding due to the extraordinary cruelty to hang the victims in a tree after murdering them. More often, the perpetrators make the bodies disappear to avoid persecution – however, this time the murderers felt very safe. I also learnt in UP that this state is in a difficult political situation and there are certain parties interested in destabilizing it further, leading to re-elections. Thus, though reporting the truth, there was a vested interest to further spreading the news about that crime until it hit the international media. What happened internationally now with India, was happening with UP already before: India gets more negative press regarding violence against women. It is noteworthy, that since the murder of the student on the bus in Delhi, female tourism dropped by 30%.

Toilets – yes or no?

There are also some quite unusual news –pushed through the media – regarding a newly-wed wife that refuses to live with her husband, because in his parents’ house there is no toilet.


The reports insinuate that the majority of rural population is used to a life without toilets, do not deem them necessary and don’t have them – even if they could. I did not find any studies or surveys supporting this statement and a rapid appraisal with families I met in UP did rather show the opposite. Everyone I talked to would like to have a toilet inside the compound – stating comfort and security as the main reasons.

Well, as the proverb goes: “Everything you can say about India, the opposite is also true.”

And on another note about UP: though this state is (as is the nation of India) referred to as predominantly rural, densities are very high – and populations migrate more than ever before. This increases also the frequency of violence against women (I am not saying that knowing each other in a small village implies that everyone is safe from each other, but higher densities and more fluctuation definitely raises the statistical likeability of crime and outdoor violence).

Development community – and local solutions?

I’ve met also with some sanitation experts from development agencies. They see the critical issue of relating a technical deficit (the lack of toilets) to a social delinquency – and hence also neglected to “use” the horrible crime for bringing it up in a discussion on Sanitation. However, the tremendous lack is obvious and was stated by all experts. The new government promises quick solutions and provides funds, hopefully they reach their purpose.

Eventually, in UP in general, there are little innovative approaches in the sanitation sector. Still, most of government and development agencies’ staff promote the pit latrine. Given the mentioned actual densities, I am convinced that this is not the right approach as the tanks are not septic and the latrines contaminate the ground water. The river water is already heavily contaminated with faeces. And pit latrines are also not the most secure solution for women: they are often shared – and outside of the safety zone of the compound.


As discussed in this group before: the question of safety for women in India is a clear governance theme –but one, which still requires technical solutions. The usual buzzwords of development talk - bottom-up, empowerment, gender-sensitive, self-determination – would really be part of a solution here. Most important seems a comprehensive approach that promotes innovative solutions,

(see: www.thealternative.in/business/10-toilet...gns-for-rural-india/ and of course www.susana.org/docs_ccbk/susana_download...sanoverviewpart1.pdf)

but at the same time, advisory services at the local level for governments, civil society and other initiatives for better awareness and the social benefits of the use of toilets. My final simple conclusion: India needs toilets. Women need toilets, it’s safer to have them at home.

Re: Uttar Pradesh rape and murder of cousins who were grabbed while using a field as a toilet (India) - and Violence, Gender and WASH 25 Aug 2014 15:06 #9875

  • dietvorst
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There is a new twist to this story as a new forensic study by India's Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD) found no evidence of rape, both Reuters and BBC report.

This contradicts an earlier post-mortem report and seems to confirm the initial suggestion by police that the two girls "could have been victims of so-called 'honour' killings" by family members.

The chief minister Akhilesh Yadav of Uttar Pradesh, where the girls were killed, accused other parties of politicising the incident by focusing of caste dimensions (the alleged perpetrators were high caste Yadavs like him).

Whether we will ever get to know the full truth is unclear, but it would be ironic considering the wide-scale national & international attention the case got, if there was no link to sanitation after all.
Cor Dietvorst
Information Specialist and News Editor
Programme Officer | IRC
+31 70 304 4014 | This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it | www.ircwash.org
Skype cor.dietvorst | Twitter @dietvorst

Re: Uttar Pradesh rape and murder of cousins who were grabbed while using a field as a toilet (India) - and Violence, Gender and WASH 25 Aug 2014 16:21 #9876

  • Alex
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Thanks to Dietvorst for adding this information.
However it's important to mention that not the corpses of the two victims were investigated (that are inaccessible due to the raised water of the Ganges) but "samples of their clothes" where no "male DNA was found" - and this brought the investigators to the conclusion that it was not rape.
After the incident, the first postmortem report already had stated that the younger girl was presumably not raped but maltreated and killed along with her cousin.

I would rather interpret this new twist as an issue of the ongoing blame game than as a new piece of essential evidence.

At this point, I also see the discussion about women's safety in India beyond this case. The many reports of abuse and harassment allover Asia resulting from being forced to walk at night in unsafe areas should make the global community react. The discussion was more than due to be triggered regardless what we are made to believe about the UP case.
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