China: Around The Nation

Shanghai’s second unisex toilet achieves vital goal – cutting queuing time for women

While some residents are unfamiliar with gender-neutral bathrooms, young people have been more quick to accept the idea

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 May, 2017, 3:59pm
UPDATED : Monday, 29 May, 2017, 3:59pm

The launch of Shanghai’s second gender-neutral restroom has significantly cut down bathroom queues for women, although public reactions to the new facility remain mixed.

The city’s second unisex bathroom, in Huangpu district opened, about two months ago. The first appeared in the city in November, news portal reported.

The new restroom contains nine toilet cubicles open to all genders, each door indicating “occupied” or “vacant” sign in LED lighting. The 33 square metre space is open daily from 5.30am to 9.30pm.

Officials say the restrooms are part of a pilot scheme to better meet the needs of the public, although they did not rule out converting them back to gender-specific restrooms if the project was unsuccessful.

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A woman surnamed Wang who lives in the area said the new restroom meant there was “essentially no need to queue” any more, compared to when restrooms were segregated.

“But having men and women in the bathroom together can still feel very awkward,” she said, noting some elderly people have a habit of opening the bathroom doors before fully adjusting their pants.

While some residents were unfamiliar with the concept of gender-neutral bathrooms, one of the facility’s cleaners told local media that women no longer had to endure long queues. Young people had been more quick to accept the idea, he said.

The facility is a step forward for both women and people with different gender identities, following an “all gender campaign” in Beijing last May that employed toilet signs depicting three figures – the commonly seen ones for men and women, alongside a split figure of the other two.

Activists in China have advocated in recent years to increase the ratio of women’s toilets to men’s to help reduce queues at women’s restrooms, a phenomenon seen around the globe.

Following “occupy men’s toilets” campaigns, the women to men ratio for public toilets increased last November to 3:2, with a higher 2:1 ratio in densely populated areas.

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Shanghai also launched its first gender-neutral public bathroom in time for World Toilet Day on November 19, which had the goal of solving “unequal toilet services”.

“It’s progressive that Chinese people are gradually accepting the idea of a unisex toilet,” activist Xiao Meili told the Asia Times.

But the first unisex restroom meant it served only about 100 people per day, far less than most public bathrooms, reported.

China has embarked on a three-year “toilet revolution” to improve the quality and hygiene of its public toilets. Some 52,000 public toilers have been built or upgraded since 2015, according figures released on Friday by the China National Tourism Administration.