How should DfID apply UK gender equality law?

By Jenny Lei Ravelo 19 March 2014

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

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Jenny Lei Ravelo@JennyLeiRavelo

Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex senior reporter based in Manila. Since 2011, she has covered a wide range of development and humanitarian aid issues, from leadership and policy changes at DfID to the logistical and security impediments faced by international and local aid responders in disaster-prone and conflict-affected countries in Africa and Asia. Her interests include global health and the analysis of aid challenges and trends in sub-Saharan Africa.

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