Sanitation has evolved from a purely technical discipline to one that includes social, environmental, economic and, increasingly, gender considerations. However, blurry notions of gender are frequently offered in the sanitation literature. Although it has been recognized that gender-responsive sanitation does not mean ‘toilets for women’, substantial alternatives are rarely debated. We structure our review of sanitation in developing countries along three lines: we start by fine-tuning the concept of gender both from the academic and the practitioner's perspective, analyse relevant developments in gender-specific policies and programming, and finally review the most appropriate toilet room and menstrual hygiene technologies. We argue that strategies to make technologies gender-responsive need to be based upon a thorough analysis of the social arrangements of the intimate, and how these are negotiated and institutionalized in a specific context. A lack of robust gender-segregated data on sanitation policies and technologies, along with reductionist framings of gender are to blame for limited progress in verifying the need for, and impact of, gender-responsive sanitation. Technology and policy development and implementation would benefit from gender-considerate interpretations of shame, dignity, safety and status. Further progress could be achieved by improving the translation process between different academic framings of the sanitation crisis.

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