Part of it is that there’s a caste that deals with the waste, the ‘manual sweepers’. You can call them bhangi (impolite) or dalit or safai karamchari, but they’re there and it’s tradition. You poop outside where it’s healthy and the sweepers take care of it. This is what God intended. I’ve seen places that have enough new public toilets, but in the morning half the people still go out and shit on the railroad tracks, because that’s what you do.
The rape thing also goes both ways - people are afraid that women can get raped in the closed stalls (and it happens) but women also get raped and murdered going outside to do their business. Rape is ‘just a thing that happens’ in India, like gun deaths in the US - society tut tuts, but doesn’t really care. The only thing safe is per-house indoor plumbing, but then you run into even more social issues - you need one toilet for men, one for women even in the same family.
Oh I’m an equal opportunity stone caster. Stupid fucks who have a problem with transgender people using toilets are even more uncivilized – well, perhaps I’d rather just call them assholes – then people defecating outdoors.
I’m waiting for the day that I can look my wife straight in the face and angrily say “this is your fucking fault” as my son is getting his impacted earwax cleaned out painfully. No matter how many times I tell her to stop doing it she still hides him in the bathroom and does it without me knowing. Yeah, cultural differences are fun.
Your post reminded me of Ben Winter’s last book in the Last Policemen series. The hero is riding around on his bicycle through a pre-apocolyptic, collapsed society and comes up with a system for coding the state of towns he rides through. Some have devolved into violence and chaos (red towns), some are peppers hiding behind walls (blue towns), and some are “make believe” towns where people have decided to just carry on with civil society, schooling children, growing crops. These towns are obvious because they all still have trash collection. He says, “Wherever we see curbs free of trash, or people bringing their waste to a collection center, people going out of their way for the common good, we know it’s safe to sleep there.” The idea seems to fit here.
Excellent example of an illogical and possibly harmful cultural norm that we Westerners can understand. Our (US) whole custom of putting the place where you defecate in the same room where you’re meant to clean your body is kind of counterintuitive. I get that it probably evolved for ease of plumbing, but most people don’t even question it.
Side note - the Indian habit of al fresco pooping probably avoids people developing that weird quirk where they have to get totally naked in order to poop.
It is! A friend of mine taught pre-school and had at least one student who would take off all his clothes each time he went poop at school. Funny unexpected workplace sentences she had to say included, "(Name), you have to put ALL your clothes back on before you come back to class. " or, “(Name), I’m not putting your clothes back on again. You have to put them on yourself if you take them off this time.” She mentioned the quirk to a colleague and she said, “My husband does that, too!” Since then, I’ve run across a handful (always male, ranging in age from kiddo to older middle-aged) of people with this habit. I mean, I don’t ask everyone I meet, so there may well be many more in my social circles, it definitely appears to be a thing.