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Made in India Magazine | October 23, 2020

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Christian Mc Karthy


Once in a while, along comes a politician who raises all the serious, world-altering issues. Pauline Henson, the leader of Australia’s One Nation party, recently questioned the installation of squatting style toilets at the Australian Taxation Offices. In this article, we give the whole topic a thorough once-over.

Senator Pauline Hanson, who leads the Australian right-wing populist party, One Nation, recently raised a serious issue. Referring to the incident of the Australian Taxation Offices (ATO) introducing squatting toilets to their offices, she said that it was a threat to the Australian way of life.

Keeping the hyperbole aside for a minute (threat to the Australian way of life, Pauline?), we thought that gives us an excellent opportunity to ask the age old question: is squatting better or sitting?

The case for squatting
Squatting, it is often claimed by squatters, is the way nature intended human beings to eliminate waste. All you need to do to check the truth of this statement is to look at how primates pass stool. They don’t sit. They find a hole in the ground (or they dig one) and do their business in it by squatting over it.

The other thing about squatting is that it pushes your thighs up against your diaphragm, which squeezes your abdomen, decreases its capacity to hold stool, and helps in easy expulsion of whatever needs to go out. Add to this the fact that only your feet touch any part of the toilet and you’d think that you have a clear winner here.

The clincher, if you’re not yet convinced, is that increasing amount of research seems to point out that the squatting position of passing stool may be the cause of significantly less numbers of colon and pelvic diseases, not to mention a healthy bowel movement.

The case for sitting
The biggest reason anyone would go for sitting over squatting is convenience. Squatting down and getting back up again involves a much higher expenditure of effort. If you’re an elderly person with cranky knees, then it becomes all the more difficult to get in and out of this stool-passing position. It’s much easier to lower the toilet seat and sit, as if you’re sitting on a chair. Or a throne, even.

The evolution of the sitting position happened on a purely emotional level. The wealthy people of the sixteenth century thought it uncivilised to squat on the ground and pass stool like the peasants, so they designed for themselves a different kind of toilet on which one would not squat, but sit like a nobleman. It just feels normal, even though what comes out is no different.

There is no real biological advantage to using sitting over squatting; in fact, since a significant part of the body is now in contact with the toilet seat, there is a higher chance of infection. And more importantly, it is harder to pass stool in this position, because the rectum doesn’t open completely unless you get down to squat.

What should you do?
All said and done, the act of passing stool is a private one, so you can pass it however you want. If all you have access to is the Western style toilet, see if you can elevate your feet using a foot rest or a short stool so that your thighs rise up and press against your abdomen. At the same time, bend slightly forward so that the pressure on your abdomen increases. This will simulate squatting for all those pesky times you don’t have access to an Indian toilet.

Oh, but remember: if Pauline Henson asks, you say you’re a sitter. Why kick the hornet’s nest when you can step around it?

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