Investing in public toilets could reduce the number of sexual assaults in South African townships by almost a third and lower the economic cost of the crime on society, public health experts said on Wednesday.
Many women in South Africa must walk long distances from their homes to public toilets, leaving them vulnerable to sexual assault, according to a study by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health and School of Management.
“It is important to remember that women living in these areas may feel unsafe every single time they need to go to the toilet,” said WaterAid program manager Louisa Gosling. “This high level of fear has a huge impact on women’s daily lives.
Decision makers should not only invest in more toilets, but ensure they are designed and managed in a way that promotes dignity, safety and accessibility, Gosling added.
The study’s authors said the cost of installing and maintaining more toilets would be offset by the reduced cost of the crime on society.
There are also many health benefits of improving sanitation in poor urban areas, such as reducing the likelihood of becoming infected with water-borne diseases, the study found.
The link between inadequate sanitation and sexual violence has previously been documented in cities in Kenya and India and other makeshift urban settlements in the developing world, including refugee and disaster-relief camps, researchers said.
Source: SA the Good News via Reuters