How should DfID apply UK gender equality law?

People walk by the railway tracks, which are often used for open defecation, particularly at night, in Digha Maharajganj, India. Women and girls are at heightened risk of harassment or assault when they are forced to relieve themselves in the open. Photo credit: Jon Spaull / WaterAid

It's already a shame for anyone to have to defecate in the open — but it's even worse when you're a girl.

And it’s not just shame. In many parts of the world, the lack of latrines makes women and girls more vulnerable to sexual attacks. WaterAid told us the story of Bhawna, a 19-year-old Indian girl who used to fear being raped every time she needed to do her business, but now feels much safer after the organization helped install a low-cost latrine inside her house.

But having access to a toilet is not enough to guarantee security for females in a society such as India’s, where in many parts of the country women and girls are treated as second class citizens and those that abuse them are often never held accountable.

Working toward changing these cultural perceptions of women and girls and strengthening laws to protect them is precisely what WaterAid and many other nongovernmental organizations are hoping the U.K. Department for International Development will now do more of, once a new law enters into force requiring DfID to consider gender equality in all its development and humanitarian interventions — from drafting through to evaluation and monitoring.

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About the author

  • Ravelo jennylei

    Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.