For good reason, India is often called the open defecation capital of the world. The fact that toilets are intensely stigmatized has a huge, deleterious impact on public health. On an personal level, the burden and cost of this preference for public urination and defecation falls disproportionately on women and girls.
For all intents and purposes, public spaces in much of India belong to men. Women are not welcome, whether or not they are overtly banned. They may be stared at, groped, verbally hassled, or worse, but they also have no place to relieve themselves. In India a woman cannot safely use a filthy, door-free uni-sex public toilet surrounded by men standing around.
And girls? Drop-out rates for girls are as much as 30% higher than for boys, and the absence or poor condition of toilets plays a large role in this. (See Pratham‘s ASER report, for example.) A girl not in school is a vulnerable girl; her choices for her future narrow dramatically.
For an inspirational and yes, light-hearted look at what one man is doing about toilets in India, watch this video about the Poop Guy. What if we had a mere 50 million of these guys here?