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Lower Courts Need Decent Washrooms   
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“Access to safe water is a fundamental human need and therefore a basic human right” - the late Kofi Annan, a former United Nations Secretary General once said on a World Water Day, a day set aside to be celebrated every March 22.

Being quoted as the World celebrates Toilet Day, which is observed every November 17, he was noted to have continued in that quote that “Contaminated water jeopardizes both the physical and social health of all people”, and “It is an affront to human dignity.”

The absence of a safe water supply contributes to an estimated 80 per cent of disease and death in the developing world and the case is worsened without decent toilet facilities.

Access to water and sanitation is not a matter of charity; it is the right of every individual to have a decent place to defecate and state actors can be held accountable when such needs are not met.

Free public toilets at places including churches, shopping malls, hospitals, courts, should be a basic necessity for a socially inclusive society.

The provision of accessible toilets can validate, reinforce and enjoy public culture and our shared ‘right to the city’.

A toilet, in this sense, is a small room used for privately accessing the sanitation fixture (toilet) for urination and defecation. Toilet rooms usually include a sink (basin) with soap for hand washing, as this is important for personal hygiene.

This room is commonly known as a "bathroom" in American English, a "loo" in British English, a "washroom" in Canadian English, and by many other names across the English-speaking world.

It is the mandate of the Courts to determine whether rights have been violated and if so, what remedies should be provided.

Depending on their national legal systems, judges can rely on international human rights law in their judgements.

Where national legal systems do not explicitly guarantee the rights to water and sanitation, case law shows that the rights to water and sanitation is seen as being part of the right to life or health, among others.

Below is an example of how the rights to water and sanitation have been enforced in different ways, in India.

In India, the rights to water and sanitation have been successfully enforced under the Constitutional guarantee of the right to life, as judges interpret water and sanitation as fundamental components of these rights.

In rendering service, such as justice, there is the need to provide comfort for clients such as providing them with decent washrooms.

It would be out of place to deny court users a facility such as washroom as it would create discomfort for not only litigants, accused persons but also court officials, prosecutors, police, lawyers, and other court users.

Madam Adwoa, a litigant recounts how she had to respond to nature’s call on one of her visits to the Lower Courts precisely Circuit and District Court, only to be told that they had been locked. She was redirected to a public toilet, which was several meters away from the court and hmmmmm, “it took God’s intervention lest, I would have soiled myself”!

Another court user, Yaw Amable complained that people who practiced open defecation were arrested and prosecuted by the same court, which did not also ensure their services to the public came with toilets.

He said “This is not good enough as for no fault of theirs, some people, who have to attend to nature’s call that they have no control had to suffer punishment because an authority failed to do its work”.

Naa Atswei, a middle-aged woman said, “we pay taxes and we are also charged for using the courts,” she lamented.

According to her, every human institution should have toilets and they must be accessible.

Even if a fee had to be paid for maintenance, it must be affordable as poor innocent people are sometimes dragged to the courts and had to pay for using it.

Others also go through the agony of not having access to the already existing ones for lack of maintenance and the few available ones are reserved for only the staff.

Some courts also allow clients to use places set aside as urinal whilst a few create structures that are barely cleaned and maintained.

In My opinion, public toilets should be about the provision of a safe and convenient public amenity.

Others don’t drink when they go out to avoid needing to find a toilet that is suitable for their needs.

However, the situation is different at the new Law Court Complex where there are decent toilets. People have to pay as they use as they are workers charged to maintain the place as it is being used.

The example demonstrated at the Law Court complex needed to be commended and if possible, same should be replicated at the lower court complex and other district courts.
Source: GNA

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