LGBTQ+ inclusion in public toilets: lessons and best practices from global initiatives

By Divya Ray July 24, 2023 5:45 PM IST

Traditional toilets aren’t known as bastions of design and creativity, but a movement has sprung up in New Zealand to break up this monotony. These interesting toilet concepts embrace the idea that toilets can be much more than functional spaces: they can be amazing to look at, cute, a little silly, and a lot of fun! Such high concept ideas are finding space and toilets are moving from being a useful but necessary space to thought provoking places where we can enjoy ourselves as well.

These concepts are very different from the realities of the toilet experiences of the LGBTQ+ community. While public toilets provide convenience, relief and dignity to most of us, they can be a source of anxiety, discrimination and violence for many in the LGBTQ+ community. Transgender people in particular face challenges and dangers when they use public restrooms that do not match their gender identity. A UCLA study reported that approximately 70% of transsexuals experienced verbal abuse in gender-segregated bathrooms, while approximately 10% reported physical attacks. These incidents have a negative impact on the physical and mental health of transgender people, as well as restrict their participation in social and economic activities.

To address this problem, some countries and cities have launched initiatives that promote LGBTQ+ inclusion in public restrooms. These innovations aim to provide safe, accessible and welcoming toilets to all individuals regardless of their gender identity and expression. At the same time, she opposes the dominance of cis-norm and hetero-norm in public places.

Gender Neutral Toilets: A Simple Solution With Significant Benefits
One of the most common and effective ways to encourage LGBTQ+ inclusion in public restrooms is to create gender-neutral or unisex facilities. These toilets are accessible and designed to be used by any gender group, regardless of their biological sex or gender expression. They may be single-user latrines, such as those in private residences, or multi-user community latrines with individual stalls and cubicles.

Gender neutral toilets offer many benefits to LGBTQ+ individuals as well as other groups who may find it difficult to use gender segregated toilets. For example, sexually neutral toilets may benefit:

  • Transgender and non-binary people who do not identify with binary categories of male or female, or who may experience harassment or violence in gender-segregated restrooms.
  • Persons with disabilities who may require assistance from a caregiver of the other gender.
  • A parent or guardian who needs to live with a child of their opposite sex.
  • People who value privacy and convenience more than gender identity.

Gender-neutral toilets have symbolic and political significance, as they challenge the assumptions and assumptions that underlie the construction and regulation of public spaces. By giving people more choice and flexibility in using toilets that best suit their needs and preferences, gender neutral toilets acknowledge the diversity and dignity of human beings and promote a culture of respect and inclusion.

Examples of gender neutral toilets around the world
Many countries and cities around the world have adopted gender neutral toilets as a way of encouraging LGBTQ+ inclusion in public spaces. Some examples are:

In England and Wales, the Equality Act (2010) has given transgender people the legal right to use gender-segregated toilets that match their gender identity. However, many public places have also adopted gender neutral toilets to provide more choice and access to their customers and staff. For example, some universities, museums, libraries, theaters and pubs have converted some or all of their existing toilets to unisex facilities.

In Canada, many states and local bodies have passed rules and policies that require at least one gender-neutral toilet in public buildings. For example, Vancouver passed a bylaw in 2018 mandating all new and renovated city buildings to have at least one universal toilet. Similarly, Ontario passed a rule in 2015 requiring all new or substantially renovated public buildings to have at least one barrier-free toilet.

In China, the first such toilets, which are unisex and gender neutral, were built sometime in 2013. Since then many administrative units have adopted this concept. Some cities have experimented with gender-neutral toilets as a way of addressing the problem of long queues for the women’s toilet. For example, Beijing launched a pilot project in 2016 that converted some public toilets into unisex spaces with individual stalls. The project received a positive response from users who praised the convenience and privacy of the new structure.

In Nepal, Bageshwari Park was the first public place to have two unisex toilets. The MP used the Parliament’s development fund to fund the growing trend in Nepal to provide space to transgender persons. Several organizations and United Fronts within Nepal continued to support separate toilets for transgender students in the public and private school systems.

wave of change in india
In India, some cities have taken initiatives to provide more inclusive and accessible toilets for transgender people. For example, Bhopal became the first city in India to introduce a third gender toilet option in 2017. The initiative was part of a wider campaign to improve the living conditions and social acceptance of transgender people in the city. More recently, the Supreme Court itself set another example by building nine gender-neutral bathrooms in the opulent corridors of the court itself.

In Delhi, the government has taken a significant step towards inclusion by making separate and inclusive washrooms for transgender people mandatory for all its departments, offices, district tribunals, municipal corporations, state-run companies, and the Delhi Police. The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) has allocated funds in its annual budget 2021-22 for the provision of setting up separate public toilets exclusively for the transgender community. The decision reflects progress towards recognizing and addressing the specific needs of the transsexual, intersex and non-binary community.

Not only the government but corporate in India have also embraced the change. Harpic a brand known for its commitment towards cleanliness has heeded to the call of this change. With open hearts and deep understanding, Harpic has made remarkable strides towards ensuring that its products serve a wider fabric of society, which includes the LGBTQ+ community. Recognizing that education is the key to changing attitudes, Harpic has created inspirational campaigns that bring to light the beautiful diversity of gender identities. Through these powerful initiatives, society is aware, educated and inspired to create an environment in which acceptance thrives.

Mission Swachhata aur Paani is a remarkable partnership between Harpic and News18, which in itself takes the concept of cleanliness to greater heights. It is a movement that recognizes the profound importance of toilets, viewing them not only as functional spaces but as torchbearers of acceptance and protection for the marginalized. This extraordinary mission rests on the firm belief that clean and inclusive toilets are essential to building a society that embraces and strengthens each of us unconditionally. With an unwavering dedication, Harpic and News18 actively engage and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, and spread the message that everyone deserves a clean and accepting space, where their dignity is maintained and their presence is welcomed.

Best practices and tips for creating gender neutral toilets
Although gender neutral toilets have many benefits, they also face challenges and resistance from certain sections of society. Some of the points raised by opponents of gender neutral toilets Common Issues and Objections These are:

Security & Privacy: Many fear that gender neutral toilets can increase the risk of sexual harassment, assault and voyeurism, especially for women and children. They also worry that gender neutral toilets may reduce their privacy and comfort, especially in multi-user spaces where they may have to share their space with strangers of the opposite gender.

Hygiene and Cleanliness: Some believe that gender-neutral toilets may be less clean and sanitary than gender-segregated toilets due to the different habits and preferences of people of different genders. For example, some women may complain that men leave toilet seats raised, or men may complain that women leave sanitary products in bins.

Tradition and Culture: Some people oppose gender neutral toilets on the grounds that they violate traditional and cultural beliefs and values ​​that apply to the use of public places. They may argue that gender neutral toilets are unnatural, immoral or disrespectful of their beliefs and traditions.

To address these concerns and challenges, there are some things to consider when installing a gender neutral toilet. best practices and tips It is necessary to follow. Some of these are as follows:

Consultation and Negotiation: Consultation or dialogue with stakeholders and users of public toilets is essential before making any changes or decisions. This can help them understand their needs, preferences and expectations as well as any fears or misconceptions they may have. It can also help build trust and support for initiatives, shape public opinion, and avoid potential conflicts or backlash.

Structure and Symbol: Gender neutral toilets are required to have structures and symbols that ensure safety, privacy and comfort for all users. This may also include providing individual stalls or cubicles with locks, adequate lighting, ventilation and soundproofing, as well as clear and visible signs indicating the location and availability of the facility. It may also include providing sanitary products, waste bins, leads, hooks and safes for personal belongings.

Education and Awareness: It is necessary to educate and spread awareness among the public about the benefits and objectives of gender neutral toilets as well as the rights and duties of the users. This may also include providing information on how to use the facility respectfully and responsibly, as well as how to report a problem or incident. It can also include promoting a positive and inclusive message that celebrates diversity and inclusion.

LGBTQ+ inclusion in public restrooms is an important issue that affects the lives and well-being of hundreds of millions of people around the world. By providing gender neutral or unisex facilities, public officials and venues can create a safe, accessible and comfortable space for people of all gender identities and expressions.

The LGBTQ community needs allies. When cisgender partners join forces, change is permanent and quick. You can become a partner in many ways. learn Howand join the movement to change our society into a just, respectful, and welcoming society for each of us.

Tags: Mission Paani, Mission Swachhta Aur Paani, News18 Mission Paani