Women have the right to have safe and clean toilets at all convenient places; Bombay HC issues detailed guidelines to Corporations in setting up toilet facilities for `women walking on the streets’
Simple and basic but of vital importance are public toilets, which are as critical as any large infrastructure project to make cities liveable. The health of a city is inextricably linked to its toilets and it is imperative to provide them in sufficient number, the Bench said.
The Bombay High Court has issued detailed guidelines on the issue of setting up in setting up toilet facilities for `women walking on the streets’. Division bench of Justices A.S. Oka and Revati Mohite Dere said that Public health is of paramount importance and that it is the duty of the State and the Corporations to ensure that public latrines, urinals and similar conveniences are constructed, maintained and kept in a hygienic condition.
Niramay Public Charitable Trust, Milun Suryajani (a media organisation), and Smt. Vidya Bal, social activist had raised the issue of lack of toilet facilities for women through a Public Interest Litigation. They said that there are approximately 17 lakh women residing in the Pune Municipal Corporation area and for 17 Lakh women, there are only 180 urinals. They also submitted before the Court that there was no bonafide effort on the part of the Pune Municipal Corporation to discharge their public duties, imposed on them by the Maharashtra Municipal Corporation Act.
The court said that no human being can live with dignity unless there are facilities to maintain basic hygiene and the right conferred by Article 21 cannot be meaningful if facilities of clean toilets and hygienic toilets are not provided to a woman walking on streets. She needs these facilities at public places like Railway Stations, Bus Stands, Banks, Public Offices like State Government Offices/Municipal Offices, the court said. The court also added that public toilets used by women have to be user-friendly, sustainable, safe, clean, hygienic and children/senior citizens/disabled friendly.
The following directions were issued. (Important ones are boldened)
- All Municipal Corporations shall formulate a comprehensive scheme for construction of toilets/ urinals/ restrooms/ privies for women walking on the streets by forming a ‘committee’ within 4 weeks.
- While designing the toilets, care shall be taken to ensure that there is proper ventilation and preferably natural light without compromising on the privacy, security and safety of women. The new toilets shall be a separate unit with a separate entrance and be preferably at a distance from the men's toilets.
- All such toilets apart from being provided with the basic facilities of continuous supply of water and electricity, shall also be provided with soap dispensers, mirrors, toilet papers, hand dryers, sanitary disposal dustbins, basins, normal dustbins and exhaust fans. As far as `pay and use' facilities are concerned, sanitary napkins and tampons shall be made available on payment basis or alternatively, a dispenser for the same may be installed.
- All cleanliness material for sweeping, swabbing, urinal disinfectants, phenyl, naphthalene balls, etc. which are required to keep the toilets clean shall be made available to the lady attendant in each of such toilets. Provision be made for storage of these materials.
- Directions for proper use of toilets (signage) shall be displayed figuratively and in writing. The visual or figurative display shall guide the users to use the toilets in a proper manner, e. g., flush toilet after use; throw sanitary napkins/tampons in the sanitary hygienic bin; keep the toilet seat clean and dry; wash hands with soap after use; use hand dryer or paper towels; throw paper in dustbin, etc. The said visual/figurative display and writing shall be standardized in size, colour, logo, font, etc.
- A lady attendant should be deputed in each of such toilet, to ensure that the toilets are kept in a clean and hygienic condition. Toilets shall be protected by a trained woman security person in uniform who shall be available round the clock.
- The timing and frequency of cleaning of the toilets will be determined by the crowd flow. Similarly the frequency will depend upon the area and locality in which such toilets are situated. The toilets must and shall be cleaned at least every 1-2 hours depending upon the usage. The time at which the toilet shall be cleaned should be displayed. The lady attendant shall ensure that the floors of the toilets are kept clean and dry at all times.
- The Corporations shall ensure that there is a Lady Caretaker/ attendant in each of such toilets and that the said lady attendant/ caretaker so appointed is adequately trained and certified to perform the task. The lady caretaker/attendant/security in-charge shall be preferably in uniform and shall be given a photo identity card with name and seal of the local authority, so that, she can be identified.
- The Corporations shall ensure that an inspection card is displayed daily which can be used for supervision and monitoring of daily maintenance of toilets
- A register or billing system shall be maintained at each toilet to keep a record of the number of users as well as the payments made by the users.
- The Corporations shall ensure cleanliness of toilets not only from within, but shall also ensure cleanliness in the peripheral areas i.e., around the toilet is maintained. Corporations must also ensure that the area outside the toilets is well lit, so as to ensure security and safety of the women using the toilets. If possible, Corporations may consider installing CCTV cameras outside the toilets so as to ensure that there is a check on miscreants, without compromising on the privacy of the users.
- The Corporations may also outsource the maintenance and cleanliness of the toilets to any housekeeping companies. The committee which is formed shall fix responsibility/ accountability for gross failures in the implementation of the comprehensive scheme/plan decided upon or in maintenance of the toilets and facilities which have been provided.
- Clear Signage shall be displayed on major arterial roads close to where the toilet facilities are made available. It shall be ensured that the said signage’s are easily visible and must be standardized in size, colour, logo and shall be fluorescent for it to be identifiable at any time of the night
- All Municipal Corporations are free to fix the charges for the ‘Pay and Use’ toilets which will be constructed. However, the Corporations to ensure that the charges are reasonable and not exorbitant, so as to dissuade women from using the same
- The Corporations shall make such toilets available where possible 24X7 or if this is not possible then from morning to night.
- The working hours of the toilet and the user charges shall be displayed at the entrance of such toilets
- All Corporations shall create a mechanism for inspection of such toilets. Any member of the Committee i.e. lady member of the NGO/ Lady Corporators/ Civic Official/ Committee member, shall conduct regular inspections / surprise inspections of such toilets at regular intervals, so as to ensure that the toilets so constructed are clean and hygienic and that all the facilities are being made available. The Corporations can constitute Ward Level Sub-Committees consisting of Officers, Citizens and representatives of NGO by making the Subcommittee responsible for supervising the condition of toilets
- A grievance redressal mechanism shall be set up by each of the Corporations. A telephone number/website shall be displayed in every toilet where a complaint/grievance can be lodged/made / photographs uploaded by the users of the toilet, to redress their grievance e.g. if toilets are unclean, flush is not working, latch is broken, leakages, etc. The complaints shall be received by the following methods: (a) Complaints in writing received at designated centres; (b) Complaints received through dedicated toll free number/s; (c) Complaints received through dedicated website; and (d) Complaints received by text message via cell phones. The Committee shall, in its Scheme, set out the time frame within which the grievance will be addressed/fixed, considering the exigencies of the situation. Further an emergency number shall also be displayed in case of any danger / emergency. An emergency bell can be provided which can be used by the users in case of an emergency.
- System of tracking shall be made available for citizens to track the action taken by the Corporation on the basis of the complaints received
- All Corporations shall ensure that there is no defacement of the exterior or within the interior of such toilets.
- When new toilets are constructed, Corporations shall ensure that the toilets cater to the needs of the disabled and as far as possible, there is one such toilet in every unit.
- The Corporations in formulating its scheme must set out its long term plan for construction of such toilets and shall submit the audit reports every year. The regular audit report must contain, the budget allocated for construction of such toilets, the expenditure incurred with breakup of costs of various materials, fixtures etc. After completion of construction of the new toilets, reports be submitted to the Committee, with regards to the expenditure funds incurred on the maintenance, repairs, payments to security personnel and housekeeping companies.
- The Committee shall in its Scheme, device a mechanism for accountability for failure to keep the toilets in a clean and hygienic condition. The Committee can also introduce in its Scheme, incentives/awards for toilets which maintain the highest standards of cleanliness and hygiene.
- The Corporations to ensure that there is no lapsing of the budgetary provisions sanctioned for construction of such toilets. Corporations shall endeavour to involve companies in construction and maintenance of such toilets and may formulate a separate scheme with involvement of such companies under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) / Public Private Partnership (PPP).
- The Corporations shall make an endeavour to put up the locations as well as facilities of toilets which are made so available on the internet services, making it helpful to all women as well as women tourists with regard to the exact location of toilets and directions to the same
- The Municipal Corporations shall give wide publicity, repeatedly, to the provision of public toilets for women in all leading newspaper as well as on electronic media.
Image from here.
Read the Judgment here.