11th July 2022
All New Schools to Have Male and Female Toilets
Single-sex toilets will be mandatory in all new schools and hospitals
On July 4th, the government announced that all new public buildings will have to have separate toilets for men and women, despite the rise of gender-neutral and universal facilities. According to the committee responsible for the decision, "The approach will mean women, who may need to use facilities more often for example because of pregnancy and sanitary needs, have appropriate facilities."
The proposed measures will apply to new public buildings over a certain size. This size will be determined during the consultation process.
In a written statement made by Kemi Badenoch, shortly before she resigned as the Minister of State for Equalities, Local Government, Faith and Communities she said: "Gender neutral’ facilities mean men and women share the same space for waiting and hand wash facilities; these should be contrasted with dedicated, self-contained ‘unisex’ toilets which maintain privacy for the single user (also known as ‘universal toilets’). Such ‘gender neutral’ toilets place women at a significant disadvantage. While men can then use both cubicles and urinals, women can only use the former. The net effect is actually to reduce toilet provision for women. Women also need safe spaces given their particular biological, health and sanitary needs (for example, women who are menstruating, pregnant or at menopause, may need to use the toilet more often). Women are also likely to feel less comfortable using mixed sex facilities."
Call for Evidence
The move follows a call for evidence which gathered a wide range of views, including from pregnant women, older people, disabled people and people who come under the protected characteristic of gender reassignment. The rise in ‘gender neutral’ toilets raised safety concerns from women who feel they are losing privacy and being unfairly disadvantaged. Separate unisex (or universal) toilets should be provided if there is space, but should not come at the expense of female toilets.
A consultation will be launched in the autumn, which will also consider the design of unisex self-contained cubicles to maximise privacy and whether improvements to disabled persons toilets should be made. The changes will be made through building regulations and guidance. Disabled toilet provision will not be affected by the changes.
Criticism of the New Decision
This decision has been criticised by those campaigning for transgender rights, who argue that gender-neutral facilities offer a safe space for those who fear discrimination in single-sex bathrooms.
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."