In July 2015, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, otherwise known as FIFA, announced that as a prominent part of its new reforms, it will ‘recognise the provisions of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (‘GPs’)1 and will make it compulsory for both contractual partners and those within the supply chain to comply with these provisions’.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), each human being requires at least 20 liters of clean water for daily consumption and basic hygiene.2 However, many countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East lack sufficient water resources or have so far failed to develop these resources or the necessary infrastructure.
Thousands have lived without love, not one without water,” so W. H. Auden finished his poem “First Things First." And right he was. Only oxygen is needed more urgently than water at most times. But a key difference that makes water a more immediate subject for theorists of justice is that, for now, oxygen is normally amply available where humans live. Historically, the same was true of water since humans would not settle in places without clean water. Nowadays, however, water treatment plants and delivery infrastructure have vastly extended the regions where humans can live permanently. Population increases have prompted people to settle in locations where access to clean water is precarious.
In May, two young women in rural India left their modest homes in the middle of the night to relieve themselves outside. Like millions in India, their homes had no bathrooms. The next morning, their bodies were found hanging from a mango tree. They had been attacked, gang-raped and strung up by their own scarves. Eighteen months after a gang-rape on a Delhi bus, this incident and others since have galvanized nationwide protests to end violence against women and highlighted caste-related discrimination. The tragic story also underscores the need to talk about another taboo topic: open defecation.