Friday, 07 April 2017 11:29

Women's dismay at gender-neutral toilets - Emine Sinmaz and Katie Strick

• The Barbican Centre in London has now changed the signage outside its toilets

• They have introduced toilets which are 'gender-neutral' with cubicles and urinals

• But women have suggested that the new move could result in longer queues



The trend for 'gender neutral' toilets is putting women's safety at risk and forcing them to queue longer, it was claimed last night.

Women have criticised the increasing number of the facilities, which can be used by both sexes, cropping up everywhere from theatres to police stations.

Yesterday the Barbican arts centre in London said it will review its decision to scrap male and female toilets in favour of 'gender neutral' facilities after protests.

Signs outside its cinema have been changed to say 'gender-neutral with cubicles' and 'gender-neutral with urinals'.

The move prompted complaints from women, including BBC broadcaster Samira Ahmed who told the Barbican 'women have enough trouble with queues without imposing your politics'.

Gender-neutral toilets have been introduced in places including universities and hospitals in a bid to appear more inclusive to the transgender community. 

Last night former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe called the Barbican's move 'absolutely pathetic'. 

'It's all being done now to appease a very tiny minority of people who've taken up a grievance agenda,' she said.

'We've had what used to be called 'unisex loos' around for a very long time. 

'But when you've got them in a major centre where an awful lot of people are, you do have to consider the fact of a) the queues, and b) people do like privacy when they go into the loos.

'And you don't necessarily want to meet somebody of the opposite sex coming out of the cubicle.

'The other thing – and it probably wouldn't apply in the Barbican – is that there are places where if you're a woman and it's late at night, you certainly don't want to meet a man in the loos.'

Yesterday the Barbican admitted there were 'practical limitations' about its move and said it would be 'seeking advice and undertaking further consultation'. 

It followed criticism from Miss Ahmed, who hosts Radio 4's Front Row, who asked why women 'lose our space to men'.

The 48-year-old tweeted to her 32,000 followers: 'Dear @BarbicanCentre women's loos labelled 'gender neutral' so full of men who ALSO have a 'urinal' to themselves. Totally ridiculous.'

She told BBC Radio London: 'I noticed this sign and there was a longer queue because there were men in the queue and men coming out of the cubicles.

'No women are going to go in the gender-neutral loos that have urinals. Essentially, women have been told men can use your loos – so anyone can use your loos – but men still get to keep their own.

'Ask any woman and we would have said, 'Look, you have to think how you do this. Don't do it by taking away our loos'.'

She said it would have been more practical to turn the men's toilets into gender-neutral facilities, with no urinals, as 'there's never such a queue there'.

At first the Barbican defended its decision, saying it was 'part of our commitment to welcoming all and creating a supportive and tolerant space'. 

But it appeared to backtrack after criticism from women who said unisex toilets can cause a host of problems, such as the potential for women on their own to be attacked.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, said: 'It's about security, and safety, and cleanliness and privacy. 

When a major arts centre such as the Barbican turns reality on its head then we know society has got problems.'

This week Dyfed-Powys Police in Wales said it was considering replacing all of its male and female facilities with 'unisex urinals' to appear more welcoming towards the transgender community.

Earlier this year cash-strapped Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust spent £1,265 to change toilet signs to show symbols for men, women, the disabled and the gender-neutral.

Daily Mail 

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