India unveils cheap new village toilets

Indian village resident Geeta uses a toilet constructed by the Sulabh International NGO in the Hirmathala village of Mewat district in the state of Haryana. Almost half of all Indians do not have access to a toilet at home

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An Indian charity has unveiled 108 new lavatories in a village which gained notoriety when two young girls were found hanged from a tree there in May.

The teenage cousins were killed in Katra Sahadatganj in Uttar Pradesh when they went unaccompanied to relieve themselves in the fields.

Campaigners say the lack of toilets and the need to walk long distances makes women vulnerable to attack.

Nearly half of India's 1.2 billion people have no toilets at home.

Unveiling the brightly-coloured, cheap lavatories on Sunday, the sanitation charity Sulabh International said it aimed to provide the same facility for every dwelling in India.

"I believe no woman must lose her life just because she has to go out to defecate," Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of the charity, said.

"Our aim is to provide a toilet to every household in the country in the not-too-distant future," Mr Pathak told the AFP news agency.

The circumstances of the murder of the two young cousins in Katra Sahadatganj remain unclear.

But they were killed when they - like countless other girls and women - walked to the fields in the dark, for privacy, to relieve themselves.

In his Independence Day speech on 15 August, Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed to end open defecation.

"We are in the 21st Century and yet there is still no dignity for women as they have to go out in the open to defecate and they have to wait for darkness to fall," he said.

"Can you imagine the number of problems they have to face because of this?" he asked.

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