In my college days, my friends and I would go out, have a few drinks and, towards the end of the night, have to find a rest room to relieve ourselves.
Just around the corner was Taco Bell, a popular fast-food restaurant where many late-nighters went.
But the manager wouldn’t let us in, as it was about to close, and the employees didn’t want to deal with mopping the floor again.
My guy friends ended up urinating on the back wall of Taco Bell, and stated: “When you have to go, you have to go.” We just made sure no cops were around.
In the US, if you urinate in public, a policeman will fine you for public urination. A person convicted of this violation will be fined between $100 and $1,000.
In California, the standard fine for urinating in public is $270 for a first conviction.
In Cambodia, urinating in public is acceptable, as men and children relieve themselves on public walls and trees.
The tuk tuk and motodup drivers say they are not allowed to go into restaurants to use the rest rooms, so they have no choice but to urinate in public.
Recently, some people have complained about men urinating in public, and have asked authorities to build more public toilets.
One woman claimed that peeing in public disrupts social order because the odour affects the environment for people enjoying the outdoors, such as in parks.
Another stated that this behaviour didn’t look good and would be criticised by tourists.
I can relate to this, because when I first arrived in Cambodia, I was shocked to see men urinating in public with a carefree attitude.
Now, it’s as common as seeing geckos crawling on the wall.
Not only does urine stain the wall because it is made up of water and uric acid crystals, which are insoluble, but it is a public health concern.
Since 2001, World Toilet Day has become an important campaign that demands action from governments, as toilets are vital to life and a basic human requirement.
Organised by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council and the World Toilet Organisation, “I give a shit, do you?” is the 2012 Global World Toilet Day campaign.
Observed annually on November 19, World Toilet Day provides awareness of the global sanitation problem. An estimated 2.5 billion people face the daily struggle of not having a clean toilet, or no access to one.
Poor sanitation has been linked to illnesses such as diarrheal diseases, the second most common cause of death among young children in developing countries.
In 2011, the International Design Excellence sanitation marketing project in Cambodia reached a landmark of 10,000 latrines sold — a tremendous step forward in public health, as only 18 per cent of the rural population has access to a toilet.
The program has been recognised internationally, and was recently inducted into the World Toilet Organisation’s Hall of Fame.
Breaking the taboo about the toilet is important.
The government, the private sector, NGOs and the media must work together in solving this global issue, because sanitation is about dignity and fundamental human rights.
The Social Agenda with Soma Norodom
The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.