Relief for women - half a century on

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 February, 2012, 12:00am


Who hasn't experienced the misery of having to wait in line to answer the call of nature from time to time? For women, the experience may be even more frustrating. Inadequate female toilets and longer usage time mean they often have to endure a longer queue. After a decade of government studies and consultations, relief is under way. The solution is to amend the building rules to ensure more toilets for females will be built in the future.

Hong Kong women are already lucky that their urge for more toilets is finally shared by officials in charge of planning. In Guangzhou, women staged an 'occupy male toilets' campaign recently to push for a law requiring toilets for females exceed those for males by 50 per cent.

It sounds absurd that the right balance of male and female toilet cubicles has to be enshrined in the law. Since the 1960s, the number of lavatories to be built in cinemas and shopping malls has been based on the 1:1 male-to-female ratio.

It does not take an expert to realise gender equality does not apply to the use of toilet facilities. For instance, a study showed men on average spend 70 seconds in the toilet while women take 96 seconds. A government consultant survey also found women had to wait five to 10 minutes for toilets.

It is baffling why the male to female ratio has been fixed at 1:1 and has not been revised for more than half a century. The good news is that officials have finally come to terms with the inadequacies and plan to revise the toilet ratio from 1 male to 1.5 female. Hopefully, it will increase female toilets by 60 to 160 per cent.

Insufficient female toilets remain a problem unbefitting Hong Kong's reputation as a world city.

It remains to be seen if a slight tweak to the ratio can help. But the change should be a welcome step.