Women are losing access to public toilets 'by stealth'

Women are losing access to public toilets 'by stealth'

Women in the UK are losing access to public toilets ‘by stealth’ amid a boom in gender-neutral lavatories, experts say.

Women have long complained that they have had fewer stalls than men, but the issue has been ignored. In the meantime the number of council-maintained public conveniences has fallen by 13 per cent over the last decade, with cash-strapped local authorities turning facilities into gender-neutral spaces to save money.

Campaigners say the result is an even greater reduction in options for women, longer queues and the embarrassment of having to walk past men at a urinal to get to their cubicle.

Lezlie Lowe, author of No Place To Go: How Public Toilets Fail Our Private Needs, added: ‘We should not look for equality… but equity, which takes into account that women take longer to use the toilet than men do.’

The Old Vic theatre in London faced a backlash in 2019 when it made its toilets unisex, leaving women with 24 facilities and men 42. Dr Clara Greed, professor of urban planning at the University of West England, said: ‘Expecting women to mix with men increases the queuing and is also very off-putting. While there might be a need for gender-neutral toilets, this should be done in addition to, and not at the expense of, women’s toilet provision.’

Conservative MP Jackie Doyle-Price, co-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on women’s health, said it was ‘astonishing’ that there was a fight to preserve women’s toilets in the 21st Century.

She said ‘women are losing these facilities by stealth’, adding: ‘It is quite reasonable for women to want their own toilet facilities away from men.

‘For a start, men’s toilets smell worse than ours.

‘Gender-neutral toilets are a real retrograde step for women and should only be provided where it would be impractical to offer separate facilities.’