In a unique move, over 1,200 imams in India's northern Haryana state declared on Saturday (February 11) that they would not officiate any wedding without proof of a toilet at the residence of prospective bride and groom.
A council of 1,200 imams from 110 villages of Mewat district announced that couples would have to produce certificates from their respective village chiefs, verifying that they have toilets at their houses for the imams to conduct the wedding.
"We have decided that if the residence of the bride or of the groom does not have proper toilets or bathrooms or urinals, we will not read at the wedding ceremony," said Yahae Karim, a Muslim imam.
India's 1.2 billion people include 175 million Muslims, constituting the third-largest Muslim population in the world.
The United Nations said in May 2014 that half of India's people defecate outside - putting people at risk of cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A and typhoid.
A local man, Moeen Khan, said that the move would help reduce crimes against women as well as boost Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Clean India' initiative.
"Toilets are compulsory for all residences, as you know it is unsafe for our women to go out for the toilet. And due to the lack of toilets, rape cases are also rising. It also keeps the surroundings clean. Even Modi has started the initiative of toilets for all homes," said Khan.
Many women in rural India must walk long distances from their homes to access sanitation facilities, leaving them vulnerable to sexual assaults.
India's shortage of toilets costs the country more than $50 billion a year, mostly through premature deaths and hygiene-related diseases, according to a World Bank study.
Since taking office, Modi has repeatedly lamented the poor state of sanitation and public cleanliness in India, vowing to solve the problems during his tenure of five years.