Why Invisible Power and Structural Violence Persist in the Water Domain. IDS Bulletin, Home > Vol 47, No 5 (2016)
Author: Lyla Mehta
This article argues that inequality in access to water and sanitation is largely caused and legitimised by different forms of invisible power that prevent universal access. It shows how invisible power combined with structural violence and experiences of unequal citizenship result in dismal access to water that cause systematic harm to poor and marginalised women and men.
The article also argues that invisible power and other forms of power imbalance have ended up naturalising water inequalities around the world. While the inalienable universality of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their focus on inequality must be celebrated, unless the power imbalances that perpetuate inequality are tackled head on by both policymakers and activists, the SDGs will not achieve social justice.
It is thus important for both the sufferers of water injustices as well as water justice advocates to challenge structural violence and invisible power in the water domain.
Household sanitation facilities and women’s risk of non-partner sexual violence in India. BMC Public Health, November 2016.
Background – Globally, one in ten individuals practice open defecation. Despite media speculation that it increases women’s risk of sexual violence, little empirical evidence supports the claims. We investigate the relationship between household sanitation facilities and women’s risk of non-partner sexual violence (NPSV) in India, where nearly half of the population lives without a pit or toilet.
Methods – We use the most recent NPSV data, from the National Family Health Survey-III, to estimate logistic regression models of the effects of household sanitation facilities (toilet, pit, or none) on NPSV in the last year among women who have resided in their current home for one year or more. These effects are estimated net of other socioeconomic factors, compared to effects of household sanitation facilities on child diarrhea, and, as a falsification test, compared to effects of household sanitation facilities on intimate partner sexual violence (IPSV) in the last year.
Results – Net of their socioeconomic status, women who use open defecation are twice as likely to face NPSV as women with a household toilet. This is twice the association between open defecation and child diarrhea. The results of our falsification test indicate that open defecation is not correlated with IPSV, thus disconfirming a simultaneous selection of women into open defecation and sexual violence.
Our findings provide empirical evidence that lacking household sanitation is associated with higher risk of NPSV.
Read also the related press release “Lack of sanitation facilities linked to higher rape incidents in India“, 14 Dece 2016