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Having access to a bathroom is, above all, a factor of dignity. As basic as this fact may seem, the WHO (World Health Organization) estimates that 2 billion people worldwide do not have access to basic sanitation facilities, such as bathrooms or latrines. Such inadequate sanitation causes 432,000 deaths annually, mainly from diarrhea, in addition to being an aggravating factor for several neglected tropical diseases including intestinal worms, schistosomiasis, and trachoma. In 2010, the UN (United Nations) labeled sanitation a basic right, alongside access to drinking water. Although today the bathroom is mostly private and reserved, this arrangement has not always been the case. In Roman civilization, collective latrines were also places for socialization and debate. Barbara Penner [1], professor at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, points out that “No less than the rise of the field of public health, it was the modern invention of privacy that caused a decisive break with earlier attitudes toward the body that had marked much of human history. [...] But the rise of privacy has resulted in the general privatization of western bathing, though this did not happen evenly or all at once. And given that private was increasingly equated with exclusive, it is not surprising that private and often very luxurious bathrooms first appeared in European aristocratic or bourgeois homes. Up until the 1920s, and sometimes well after that, the urban and rural poor were mostly left to carry on as before with communal privies (which remained sites of socializing) and public bathhouses, showers and swimming pools. But privacy and related concerns about decency began to shape these establishments, too; communal privies were downsized and public baths were more rigorously subdivided to ensure the segregation of men from women, and, with partitions and cubicles, men from other men and women from other women." The concept of private bathrooms inside buildings is not, therefore, as old or as natural as many would think. View more View full description
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