Big changes are being made to the rules around single-sex toilets

·2 min read
Photo credit: Peter Dazeley - Getty Images
Photo credit: Peter Dazeley - Getty Images

All new public buildings – such as schools, hospitals, offices and entertainment venues (like nightclubs) – must have single-sex toilets under a recently-approved government plan.

The move, which has reportedly been pushed forward by Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch and approved by MPs last month, means that venues will no longer be allowed to have only gender-neutral facilities and plans for new buildings must have a self-contained space for women-only toilets as well as partitions in current unisex bathrooms.

Speaking about the plan, a government source told The Telegraph: "It is vital that women feel safe and comfortable when using public facilities and that there is a greater emphasis on provision that is focused on dignity, privacy, tolerance and respect for all.

"These changes will stop the march of 'universal' and forced sharing of spaces – with a focus on guaranteeing privacy for all."

It comes after some campaign groups said that gender-neutral facilities put women at a "disadvantage" because "they cannot use urinals, whereas men can use the cubicles." In a message to the government, Fair Play for Women said: "Furthermore, many women and girls are unwilling to walk past the urinals to get to the cubicles in the former men's facilities."

Photo credit: Peter Dazeley - Getty Images
Photo credit: Peter Dazeley - Getty Images

But the decision has not been welcomed by everyone, particularly those campaigning for transgender rights, who argue that gender-neutral facilities offer a safe space for those who fear discrimination in single-sex bathrooms.

"'Single-sex toilets to be compulsory in new public buildings' - nonsensical, irrelevant plan from 'equalities' minister, @KemiBadenoch... Domestic loos are gender-neutral, so what's the actual problem with gender-neutral loos in public buildings??" one person wrote on Twitter. "WTF is up with this obsession with 'single sex toilets'?? Seriously. IT IS A LOO. Gender neutral restrooms/toilets/bathrooms are the only thing that makes sense," someone else said.

Elsewhere on Twitter, a third person wrote, "Reading this ridiculousness on a train where the only toilets are gender-neutral and it causes exactly zero problems." Other people took the stance that the government's time would be better spent focussing on other safety issues impacting women. "I’m thinking that improving the rape prosecution and conviction rates might do more to keep people safe. But then, I’m old-fashioned," one person tweeted.

Recently, former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick conducted a review into gender-neutral bathrooms which identified concerns held by some women about the reduced privacy and longer queues. Responding to claims that proposed changes to gender-neutral toilets were "transphobic", Jenrick told The Telegraph: "This was a simple matter of trying to protect the safety and privacy of women. Many women would prefer there to be separate ladies and gents loos in public buildings."

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