Bangladesh uses Arabic scripts to fight public urination

The government is hoping to stop public urination by replacing Bengali signs against urination with Arabic ones, holy language for Bangladeshis

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Public urination has been a problem that Bangladesh has struggled to tackle in the past but the government is hoping a solution can be found by tapping into religious sentiment.

With Bengali warning signs having failed to ward off urinators from hotspots, the government has decided to paint over them and make Arabic the language of the warnings instead.

Many in Muslim-majority Bangladesh can read Arabic and associate it with religion and the Quran but few can understand the language.

A two-minute video posted by the religious affairs ministry on the weekend showed a series of men readying to relieve themselves only to be caught off-guard by the Arabic signs, which they assumed were religious in nature.

Motiur Rahman, the country's religious affairs minister, suggests in the video that people should be using toilets at the thousands of mosques in the capital Dhaka, rather than urinating on the side of roads.

According to ABM Mobasher Hossain, Project Manager of Water Aid Bangladesh, the problem is in the lack of public facilities.

"There are only 47 public toilets in operation in Dhaka, where at least around 5.5 million commuters are out in the street everyday," said Hossain. "And at least 50 percent of public toilets do not have running water supply and electricity."

Another problem, according to Hossain, is that the few that are operational do not have facilities for women or people with disabilities.

He said a public toilet they set up at a bus terminal has at least 1,000 people using it every day.

The homeless in Dhaka are also affected by the lack of toilets, which leaves them with no option other than to publicly urinate.

Farzana Ferdousi, an office worker in Dhaka, said she has to go through the embarrassing daily experience of watching men urinate while she goes to the office.

"It’s a good trick to stop men urinating but they could include Bangla as well for commuters to better understand, as most do not read Arabic."

Some are less pleased by the government's initiate and are concerned about the religious impact.

"It is a complete mockery of religious sentiment," said cleric Moulana Farid Uddin Masud. "What is important is to create mass awareness and also build necessary public toilets and this will gradually stop people urinating in the streets."