Key Takeaway 02 is “defecation in open fields is the idealized reference for toilet experience.” Defecation in open fields is the common denominator for most slum residents, and hence has social approval. Often there is a sense of permissibility towards open defecation because a majority of urban slum residents come from villages where the practice is common and not taboo. Thus, they continue the habit after they have shifted to urban locations.
Defecation in fields is also often preferred to using any available community toilet facilities, as it allows for users to determine their own time and space within which the act of defecation gets completed. Those who use the toilets for multiple activities tend to set their routines so that they make only one trip to the community toilet in which they defecate, brush teeth, bathe, wash clothes etc. - therefore, using toilets tends to be more clinical compared to open field defecation.
Many individuals also prefer open defecating to using community toilets as an open environment facilitates a more pleasant experience than enclosed toilet facilities. Dark and dirty community toilets are viewed as a source of disease. However, in open fields the feces disintegrates quickly, providing a space that is perceived as cleaner and which has more options of spots to defecate.
This insight illustrates the challenge to overcome when considering sanitation approaches and initiatives in urban areas, as even in areas with limited open space, the act of open defecation continues. Not only do adults engage in open defecation in fields, but children will often defecate in public drains and streets outside of their homes. The pervasive act of open defecation and the preference many people have for it is one of the key challenges to overcome in the sanitation arena.