UK government announces restrictions on gender-neutral toilets

The new UK government policy is said to give "greater consideration" in the range of toilets to protect "dignity… and privacy for all.”

The UK Government are implementing new policies on the the gendered toilets. The image shows a series of cutout graphics representing toilets and facilities mounted on a wooden wall. The graphics include male and female, disabled, parent nursing a baby, parents holding a child's hand, and someone changing a baby.
Image: NavinTar via Shutterstock

The UK government has confirmed that they will be bringing forward changes to building regulations to ensure the provision of single-sex toilets for men and women.

The new policy, which will apply to all new non-domestic public and private buildings, was announced on Sunday, August 13.

According to the GOV.UK website, the new regulations are aimed at addressing “dignity and privacy concerns from women and elderly people,” suggesting they are being “unfairly disadvantaged” as a result of publicly accessible toilets being “converted into gender neutral facilities.”

The website also asserts that concerns have been raised that “the rise of neutral gender facilities has meant that public have been forced to share cubicle and hand-washing facilities.” It also suggests that this has led to increased queues, as well as “decreased choice and a limitation on privacy and dignity for all.”

In a statement regarding the changes, Kemi Badenoch, Minister for Women and Equalities, who is responsible for tabling the proposal, said, “It is important that everybody has privacy and dignity when using public facilities. Yet the move towards ‘gender neutral’ toilets has removed this fundamental right for women and girls.”

She continued, “These proposals will ensure every new building in England is required to provide separate male and female or unisex facilities, and publish guidance to explain the difference, protecting the dignity, privacy and safety of all.”

GOV.UK, the official website of the government, asserts that the decision to implement the changes came following a “call for evidence on increasing the accessibility of toilets for men and women” which gathered 17,000 responses. The article goes on to assert that the findings “generally called (sic) for greater consideration in the range of toilets to preserve dignity, access, equality, and privacy for all.” 

Commenting on the announcement of the new policy, Labour’s shadow minister, Anneliese Dodds, told PinkNews, “Rather than focusing on the cost-of-living crisis facing families or tackling the biggest ever NHS waiting list, Conservative ministers are instead appointing a toilet Tsar to decide how many toilets buildings have.”

She continued, “Kemi Badenoch has failed to produce schools guidance or bring forward a ban on abusive conversion practices. Rather than obsessing over toilets she should be getting on with her job.”

Highlighting the absurdity of the proposed regulations, Dodds added, “Labour knows that there are times when toilets will need to be single-sex space, which can include individual unisex cubicles. But it is for service providers to decide what is most appropriate, not politicians to police toilets. There is common sense guidance on this from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.” 

Despite the opposition’s concerns, the government statement claims that the “proposed policy will have a positive impact for many people. It may reduce queues for disabled people’s toilets – which may, in cases, be the only non-gendered toilets available – and enhance the privacy of women and transgender people, who may be fearful of being verbally or physically assaulted while using toilet facilities.”

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