The Indian government is encouraging the construction of village toilets to improve village hygiene and safety. Photo: Flickr Commons

A district magistrate has denied telling a poor villager that if he could not afford to build a toilet in his home, he should sell his wife, according to media reports.

In an effort to promote the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) campaign, Kanwal Tanuj, district magistrate of Bihar’s Aurangabad, met with villagers in Jamhore in Aurangabad district on Saturday, to raise awareness of the dangers of open defecation and encourage them to build toilets to make the community cleaner and safer.

Tanuj told the gathering that women are sexually assaulted when they go out to relieve themselves due to the lack of toilets, adding that it costs just Rs12,000 ($US180) to build one, ANI reported. Tanuj was quoted as saying, “Is Rs12,000 [worth] more than anyone’s wife’s dignity? Who can let his wife get raped in return of Rs12,000? If this is your mentality then go and sell your wife. Those who cannot build a toilet should sell or auction his wife.”

However, the district magistrate said the news agency took that part of his 25-minute speech out of context, “totally distorting the issue.” He reportedly told the villagers that if they had money for alcohol and tobacco, they had money for toilets.

Tanuj told Hindustan Times, “A man disrupted my speech saying if we don’t have the money we will not build [a toilet]. I think he came to provoke me. What I heard him saying was that should we save our honour or make money. Then I told him that if this is your mentality then you can go and sell your honour. I think this is the handiwork of some local anti-social elements… I never said that if you don’t have toilets, go and sell your wife… It is very embarrassing. No one can say something like this.”

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