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India: Rural villagers say, “no toilet, no bride.”

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Ben Arnoldy/The Christian Science Monitor

(Read caption) Monica, center, a young woman in Ladravan, India, says of any potential suitor, “I’ll be asking him to build a toilet.” And if he doesn’t? “Then I won’t marry him.”

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LADRAVAN, INDIA – In rural India, having a toilet has become an issue of a woman’s right. Many homes don’t feature plumbing because men, in particular, question the expense – even the desirability – of indoor facilities.

That’s changing rapidly in the state of Haryana, where the government is putting up funds and village women are leaning on their men to get with the program. Their slogan: “No toilet, no bride.”

The combined effort has helped boost the number of rural homes with toilets to 60 percent, up from less than 5 percent four years ago, says Kashi Nath Jha, the Haryana local chairman of the sanitation organization Sulabh International.

In Ladravan, a village of farms and brick kilns about an hour’s drive from Delhi international airport, one bride has already divorced her groom when she learned that his family lied about having a toilet, says Anil Kumar Chhikara, one of the village leaders. Another young woman, Monica, says of any potential suitor, “I’ll be asking him to build a toilet.” And if he doesn’t? “Then I won’t marry him.”

Women have more clout these days in the village, says Mr. Chhikara, because years of selective-sex abortions have left more bachelors than potential brides.

Kamla Devi sits on the front porch of a new home being built for her son and his fiancée. The toilet was one of the first items to be completed. The government will refund 90 percent of a completed toilet’s construction cost. Until now, Mrs. Devi had no toilet and, like others, would wait until nightfall for privacy. “It was very embarrassing when I was outside and I saw the light of a car ... on me,” she says.

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