More thought urged on ratio of women's toilets

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 August, 2006, 12:00am

Women's rights activists say the public needs more time to consider the government's proposal to provide more public toilets for women.

They were speaking yesterday at the end of a two-month public consultation on plans to adjust the ratio of women's to men's toilets.

Veteran women's rights activist Rose Wu Lo-sai, of the Hong Kong Christian Institute, said: 'The review affects everyone. The government should make announcements on TV and radio, they should go to schools and community centres. They shouldn't just talk to professionals.'

The Buildings Department posted a document called the Review of Building (Standards of Sanitary Fitments, Plumbing, Drainage Works and Latrines) Regulations on its website on June 9 and invited public comment.

The department is proposing increasing the number of toilets for women in shopping centres, department stores, offices, cinemas and theatres.

The adjustment is based on the fact that the female population has risen since the current regulations were developed in the late 1950s.

The regulations assume half the population is female and the ratio of men to women in offices is 2:1. The new ratios assume 1:25 women to every one man in shops and cinemas, and 1:1 elsewhere.

Under the current regulations, it is assumed that a 300 square metre shopping area has 10 women in it at any one time and that one toilet is enough for their needs. The proposed regulations assume 56 women will be in the shopping area, needing three toilets.

The regulations assume half the audience in a 300-seat cinema will be women, requiring two toilets. The new rules will assume 167 members of the audience are women, requiring four toilets.

A department spokeswoman said the consultation process began in January. The Women's Commission, professionals such as architects, engineers and surveyors, and the Real Estate Developers' Association had been consulted.

Mary Ann King Pui-wai, of the Association for the Advancement of Feminism, said the proposal was conservative.

'They didn't take into account the fact that women go to the toilet more often than men, have to wait longer, and spend more time in the toilets.'

Kitty Au Man-yee, of Polytechnic University's environmental advisory service, said the review should also include family-friendly facilities, such as baby-changing stations.