Women in Mumbai fight for their right to free public toilets

Finding relief in a public toilet is free of charge for men but not women in the Indian city
Relief at last
Pankaj Nangia/Getty Images

Women in Mumbai can own property and vote. They even make up half of the city’s civic authority, a collection of elected and unelected officials. Something they can’t do, however, is pee for free. Women have to pay a fee to use their city’s public toilets, while men do not. And, not surprisingly, the women aren’t happy about it. As a result, 35 NGOs have teamed up to launch a campaign called “Right to Pee,” urging authorities to eliminate the public toilet fee and bring in other amenities for women.

A 2009 study by the Center for Civil Society found that Mumbai had only 132 public toilets designated for women—several of which required extensive repairs—while the men had 1,534. The situation is so dire, women often resort to carrying a bag with them, a solution known as the “flying toilet.” And because only half of India’s homes have toilets, public sanitation is more important than ever.

So far the 35 NGOs have collected over 7,000 residents’ signatures on the “Right to Pee” petition, which they are going to present to Mumbai’s civic authority—its female half, in particular.