Access to treated water and sewage services are human rights recognized for years by the United Nations. Recently, this topic has been brought to the spotlight when the issue of gender equality has been jointly focused with the issue of sanitation. The 33rd Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which was held on July 27, 2016, dealt specifically with this. According to UN Special Rapporteur, Brazilian Léo Heller, gender equality is a fundamental principle of human rights that has not always been respected in urban development policies. In the rapporteur’s view, transformative action is needed to achieve gender equality with regard to the right to the regular provision of treated water and the collection and treatment of sewage. The main ideas and conclusions of this report can be seen in the United Nations (2016).
Gender inequalities occur at every stage of a woman’s life, from her childhood to her old age. That is why it is so important to pay attention to the special needs of women with regard to the right to water and to the sanitary sewage in the different phases of their lives. It is fundamental to note that gender inequality in access to water and sewage services also affects other human rights, such as women’s right to health, security, adequate housing, education and food.
The present study analyzes, from several complementary points of view, the issue of women and sanitation in Brazil. First, the profiles of the contemporary Brazilian woman are traced according to the data from the National Survey by Continuous Household Sample of 2016 (PNADC). The identification of these profiles not only helps the understanding of Brazilian women, but also helps to capture the heterogeneity within this population group, a recommendation, also, of the approach proposed in the United Nations report. This approach allows the identification of the most vulnerable minorities and their specific conditions of sanitation, health and insertion in the labor market.