The Unintended Consequences of Removing Single Sex Spaces
The removal of single sex spaces for women on the basis that they are discriminatory towards a man’s “gender identity or expression” goes against the right for women and girls to have single sex spaces to protect privacy, bodily integrity, and safety. The policy of removing single sex spaces only negatively affect women which should label them as discriminatory. It is not equality if women are put in danger. There is no reason we cannot create a third space for people who do not feel comfortable using a sex-segregated space. This way no one’s rights will be infringed upon.
Safety and comfort are often brought up in these arguments, but no one seems to care about the safety or comfort of the women in this situation. Women often feel uncomfortable in mixed-sex toilets because we do not feel safe. No consideration is made for women of faith who believe they must behave differently towards males. Muslim women are forced to adjust their hijabs in front of males, something that is forbidden in their religion. We want to respect everyone’s feelings all we ask is that you respect our as well. No one’s rights are more important than anyone else’s rights. We are all equal and we should all be treated fairly.
Women experience the largest amount of violence. Usually this violence is sex-based and caused by a male. One woman or girl is killed every 2.5 days in Canada. In 2020 men caused more than 90% of violent deaths of women and girls. Women are 10x more likely to be assaulted in mixed sexed bathrooms vs single sexed bathrooms. (1) There is a clear need for women to be protected from men especially in places where they are vulnerable and have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Women’s history is inextricably linked with women’s need to protect ourselves from sexual harassment and sexual assault from males. To pretend that these factors were not significant to women’s history is to pretend that this violence does not exist. Women had to fight for their own washrooms to be able to fully participate in society. The same way we had to fight for our recognition as persons and for the vote. We as women cannot stop fighting for our rights.
Women are biologically different than men. We must use the washroom more because of this. We have smaller bladders, and many women have monthly periods that need to be attended to throughout the day. Women also spend more time in the bathroom because we need to get partially undressed and sit while we urinate. This puts us in a very vulnerable position as we use the washroom, one that is different from men because of biology, not “gender identity”.
In India there is a popular “Right to Pee” Campaign that advocates for more women’s toilets. They, like the women before us, understand that sex-based spaces allow women to live a public life. In India many women must stay close to their homes to safely pee. Many women are also barred from entering the work force as there is no toilet for them to use. (2) One South African study found that the rates of sexual assault decrease 70% when increases the number of female toilets. (3) Manos Antoninis the Director of the Global Education Monitoring for UNSECO has stated “Single-sex toilets are desperately needed to overcome girls’ barriers to education. Improved sanitation to address adolescent girls’ concerns over privacy, particularly during menstruation, can influence their education decisions”. (4)
We know girls are missing school due to their periods in the developing world but now it is happening in so-called developed countries. With the introduction of mixed sex washrooms girls are increasingly being period shamed and some girls are missing school because of the bullying. (5) Why is it that we can see the need for single sex spaces in developing countries but not in our developed ones?
Women in the past fought to have single sex private spaces in public such as washrooms and change rooms and women all over the world are doing the same today. We need these spaces to be able to participate in public life. If you remove female washrooms you will remove women from public life and that is unacceptable for a developed nation such as Canada that claims to honour their citizens’ rights and freedoms.
1. CFOJA Reports. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.femicideincanada.ca/home/allreports
2. Network, CORO. (n.d.). Right To Pee. Retrieved from http://coroindia.org/what-we-do/regional-campaigns/right-to-pee
3. Gonsalves, G. S., Kaplan, E. H., & Paltiel, A. D. (n.d.). Reducing Sexual Violence by Increasing the Supply of Toilets in Khayelitsha, South Africa: A Mathematical Model. Retrieved from https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0122244
4. Single sex toilets 'desperately' needed to overcome girls' barriers to education,' says Unesco. (2018, March 08). Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/single-sex-toilets-unesco-un-international-womens-day-period-a8244776.html
5. Photography), (. J., & Wales), (. M. (2019, February 18). Pupils are missing school because they don't like mixed sex toilets. Retrieved from https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/education/pupils-missing-school-because-dont-15839558