Traffic constable Sulka Basu’s life is busy like the rushing vehicles on Dhaka streets. Seldom can she sit idle. She regulates traffic movement at the Russell Square.
Like Sulka, a good number of female police now control the traffic movement on the busy Dhaka streets. But there is no designated restroom (toilet) facility for the female professionals serving for eight-hour straight a day. This is presumable that how they feel the trouble while ignoring the call of nature. Their plight is acute than their male colleagues.
In a short break, Sulka says, “Whenever I need to use a toilet, I get very worried. A male person can use any toilet. But a female one can’t. Instant use of private toilet is not very comfortable.”
Sulka has to use neighbouring bus counter toilets while working at the Russell Square. But she finds the public toilets unhygienic. Her female colleague Nazia Afrin adds, “We face the worse situation in time of menstruation. Public toilets at the market or bus counter are not congenial for cleanliness during the period. Toilet facilities just at the police box would be very helpful for us.”
Traffic police, in general, use toilets on request at the nearby markets, hospitals and government or non-government offices. But they cannot access the facilities after the offices close in the evening. Plight of the traffic police serving after evening can easily be presumed.
Sergeant Shilpi Akhter shares her bad experience while serving at the Khamarbari intersection. She says, “Finding a comfortable toilet during a duty time is tough. I have to walk for five or seven minutes to access a nearby toilet. The toilets at the Eye Hospital and Khamarbari (Department of Agriculture Extension) remain closed at night or during the holidays. In that time, I need to go far to find a toilet. But often it seems impossible to get a break as our absence for a while could create traffic congestion.”
To save their duty time, the female police often ignore the urge for urinating. And they drink less water to control pressure in bladder, says Shilpi Akhter.
Some other female and male traffic police too share the same experience due to the shortage of toilet facilities. So they are exposed to health risks. But they have no alternative other than serving their duties, says a traffic constable who prefers to be anonymous.
Since 2015, the year she got the job, Shilpi Akhter for several times let the high officials informed about the issue. Assurance of grievance redress was made all the time. But there has been no visible solution so far. Shilpi regrets, “We have informed our high officials. This is a common problem for the male and female traffic police. If the situation is not changed, we will face health problems.”
Assistant inspector general (media) of the Police Headquarters, Md Sohel Rana, admits that traffic police, particularly the female one, are facing huge problems due to lack of toilet facilities at the police boxes. “That’s why police have requested the related agencies for new police boxes with toilet facilities. Considering the gender-based requirements, steps have been taken to install toilet at police boxes or similar establishments,” he says.
*This report appeared in Prothom Alo print and online edition, and has been rewritten in English by Sadiqur Rahman