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Access to Toilets and Violence Against Women

  • Economics Discussion Papers
  • November 2, 2020
  • Kanika Mahajan,
  • Kanika Mahajan, Sheetal Sekhri

Topics

This paper examines if in-home access to toilets reduces the risk of violent crimes against women. We use the roll out of the Swachh Bharat Mission, a flagship toilet construction program in India, to ascertain if assault and rape of women reduce when women have access to in-home toilets relative to open defecation. We bolster our findings by using political alignment of locally elected representatives in close elections with the national government's political party, post the launch of the program, as an instrument in an instrumental variable strategy. Our IV estimation is robust to conditioning on average luminosity as a proxy for growth though we do not observe any correlation between our instrument and local economic growth measures in this time period. We find that construction of toilets reduces sexual assault of women, but we do not discern consistent changes in rape. Our findings are robust to a variety of controls, specifications, and identification approaches. We address reporting changes as a plausible alternative explanation.

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