A little perspective for the next time your Significant Other complains that the air conditioning is turned up too high. Or that they can’t see the TV from the couch. Or that the light in the patio isn’t just right. Things, as we never tire of reminding you around here, could always be worse:
In rural India, many young women are refusing to marry unless the suitor furnishes their future home with a bathroom, freeing them from the inconvenience and embarrassment of using community toilets or squatting in fields… latrines. But since a “No Toilet, No Bride” campaign started about two years ago, 1.4 million toilets have been built here in the northern state of Haryana, some with government funds, according to the state’s health department.
Rural India went centuries without basic indoor sanitation. Standards of living stagnated, life expectancies were cut, people lived in filth – whatever. But let women start denying men marital nookie and suddenly we’ve got the plumbing equivalent of a polio eradication campaign. Nice.
This is also a neat little experiment in cross-cultural anthropology. As is often the unfortunate case in poor countries, villagers in India have a societal preference for boys. Young men can work tougher jobs at a younger age and can bring money into the family. Girls can’t do most of the rural world’s labor-intensive jobs and, worse, eventually require dowries. So what you find in India is the same thing you find in similar countries: poor families will abort female fetuses, eventually creating a society-wide gender imbalance.
Somewhat paradoxically though, India’s gender skew has ended up empowering Indian women. Economics 101: there’s a relative glut of men and a relative shortage of women, so women and their families can be more choosy. In this case they’re choosing toilets. Compare that to China, where their massive demographic imbalance has caused the Internet to crash as men bombard search engines and forums seeking maps to a Lost City of 25,000 man-hungry Swedish lesbians. What a wonderful and endlessly varied place the world is.