With access to a toilet, women no longer have to defecate in the open where they feel ashamed, and vulnerable to predators when having to expose themselves publicly. In addition to access, there are numerous considerations for limiting the risk of violence associated with toilets.

For example, it is important to consider the distance in which women have to travel to access toilets. The closer a toilet is to the home, the less amount of time a women is vulnerable during travel, commonly by dark, to reach a toilet. Also, being within proximity to the home and established social networks, a women feels less vulnerable when relieving herself, and able to call for help if needed. 

The conditions in which women need to travel to access toilets, as well as conditions of toilet facilities, also play a role. A footpath that is covered by darkness and/or brush for example puts a woman in a more vulnerable situation than a path that is exposed and well travelled. While a toilet that is lit, is with a door and lock, and has separate facilities for men and women, does more to protect against violence than facilities lacking such conditions. 

Access to safe toilets and violence against women is a complex issue. On top of the examples provided on how toilets can play role in protecting women against violence, it is important to consider culture, power, gender roles, policy, community participation, and collaboration across sectors in efforts to limit experiences of gender based violence. 

While poor access to toilets is not the cause of violence against women, it can increase a women’s vulnerability to violence. As advocates of safe toilets for all, it is our obligation to consider protection against violence in all aspects of policy and programming. Otherwise, our work can exacerbate vulnerabilities to violence. 

For more information please see Violence Gender & WASH: A Practitioner’s Toolkit: Making Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Safer through Improved Programming and Services.