The availability of a functional toilet in India has led to a significant reduction in sexual assault of women.

This was the opinion of a majority of respondents during an exclusive survey conducted by CVoter Foundation in late April across India.

More than 60 per cent of the respondents answered in the affirmative to the question: Has there been a reduced incidence of sexual assaults on females after getting a toilet in your area?

While three out of every five Indian agrees, about one in every five thinks that there has been no reduction in sexual assaults on women.

Before the launch of the Swach Bharat programme in 2014, young girls and females were vulnerable to molestation and rape while going out to defecate in the open during early morning or in the dark after sunset.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had stressed this aspect while launching the mission to make India free of open defecation. This was a serious problem for females particularly in semi-urban and rural areas.

The exclusive survey conducted by CVoter Foundation across India was initiated to find out success and failures of the Swach Bharat campaign. To make the survey more representative of reality on the ground, all the respondents came from the lower income background, with incomes below Rs 3000 per month.

The underlying assumption is that it is the very poor who defecate the most in the open. The NHFS-5 series data for 2021 confirms this it's the two poorest states Bihar and Jharkhand reporting the highest rates of open defecation. Not surprisingly, the two states continue to suffer from high numbers of assault on women who have to go to the fields for defecation.

CVoter Foundation will expand the initial scope of this survey into a larger one which will facilitate a state wise ranking on the issue.