Deadly toilet trips for women in Cape Town's informal settlements

25 May 2016 - 12:59 By TANYA FARBER and APHIWE DEKLERK

Women in Cape Town's informal settlements are at high risk of rape for 15 minutes every day as they walk to and from toilets.Women in Cape Town's informal settlements are at high risk of rape for 15 minutes every day as they walk to and from toilets.The finding, by researchers at Yale University in the US, comes as an international monitoring organisation said the City of Cape Town's budget for installing toilets in informal settlements has been virtually unchanged for a decade, despite the fact that one-fifth of households are in informal settlements.The council meets today to discuss its budget for 2016-17.Yesterday, hundreds of Khayelitsha residents marched to the Civic Centre to hand over a petition demanding improved sanitation in informal settlements."Using a toilet in many informal settlements is one of the most dangerous activities for residents," the petition read."Women, children and men of all ages are frequently robbed, raped, assaulted and murdered on the way to relieve themselves in a toilet, bushes or empty clearings often very far from their homes."Yale's researchers quantified the link between sexual assaults, the number of sanitation facilities and time spent walking to the toilet.They found that each woman is at high risk of rape for more than 90 hours a year.Lead author Gregg Gonsalves said: "Between 2003 and 2012, there was a yearly average of 635 sexual assaults on women travelling to and from toilets in Khayelitsha."The combined annual social costs of those assaults came to about R620-million. By increasing the number of toilets from 5600 to 11300, sexual assaults would be reduced by nearly 30%."Our findings are all the more striking because we did not take into account the many additional health benefits of improving sanitation in resource-constrained areas, particularly the reduction in mortality caused by water-borne infectious diseases," Gonsalves said.According to the city council's draft budget, R15-million has been allocated for the installation of flush toilets in informal settlements.The International Budget Partnership said the budget for installing toilets had remained unchanged for 10 years and constituted only 1% of the total water and sanitation budget - but informal households made up over 20% of the total.In a GroundUp article, the partnership's Albert van Zyl and Jessica Taylor said: "The city has often argued that physical impediments such as floodplains and privately owned land make it impossible for them to spend more on flush toilets in informal settlements, but research by Cornerstone Economic Research in the City of Cape Town shows that this is not true."The Social Justice Coalition, a non-government organisation that led yesterday's march, was commended by Van Zyl and Taylor for its campaign."International research shows that meaningful engagement of this kind leads to better public spending and improved service delivery," they said.The coalition handed over a 5000-name petition yesterday.It has co-ordinated 3000 submissions during the budget public participation period, all calling for "safe, clean and dignified sanitation services".The coalition argued that the money spent by the city to service a single chemical toilet for 10 years was enough to build nine permanent flush toilets.Khayelitsha's sanitation problem was thrust into the spotlight in March when Sinoxolo Mafevuka, a teenager from Town Two, was raped and killed on her way to a communal toilet 200m from her home.Two men have applied for bail in the Khayelitsha Magistrate's Court.A spokesman for mayor Patricia de Lille said the council would respond to the petition.

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