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As COVID cases soar and second lockdown is announced, the UK government launches review into toilets. Yes, really

Lily Wakefield November 1, 2020
gender-neutral toilets

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick believes his toilet review is a "necessity". (David Nash/Barcroft Media via Getty and Envato)

As COVID-19 cases pass the one million mark in the UK and a second lockdown in England is announced, the government seized the moment to launch a “transphobic” review into gender-neutral toilets.

On Saturday (31 October), UK prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed that England would enter a second lockdown as coronavirus cases soar. On the same day, the government announced “a review that will help women be assured of the necessary provision of toilets”.

The review was launched by communities secretary Robert Jenrick and will be led by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

According to a press release, the review will “consider the ratio of female toilets needed versus the number for men, given the need for women to use always use cubicles [sic], and will address misconceptions that removing sex-specific toilets are a requirement of equality legislation”.

It claims: “Over recent years there has also been a trend towards replacing female only facilities with ‘gender neutral’ toilets – something that has caused concern and is against legislation where public authorities have a duty to provide safe spaces for women in lavatories in buildings.”

Jenrick said in a statement that the review was a “necessity”, and that he had heard concerns “raised by many women and the elderly”. At no point did Jenrick or the press release explain why “the elderly” could not use gender-neutral toilets.

He said: “The review that I have launched today will help women be assured of the necessary provision of toilets… I have launched a review to establish the best way to deliver this as a priority and make sure that women can expect a sense of dignity, security and safety when using facilities.”

“We want to maintain safeguards that protect women and the proper provision of separate toilets, which has long been a regulatory requirement, should be retained and improved.”

Gender-neutral toilets review described as ‘utter transphobic dog whistling’.

The LGBT+ community took to social media to call out the review, which relied on debunked arguments often used by anti-trans campaigners, and yet made no mention of provisions for trans or non-binary people.

One Twitter user wrote: “The government now wants to review gender neutral toilets. These are not in opposition with gendered facilities.

“Yet it does feel like the government wants to reinforce the notion of opposition – and tire us strategically until we give up.”

Another said described it as an “utterly shameless attack on non-binary people and also nonsense in terms of legislation”.

One person claimed that the timing of the review’s launch, on the same day that lockdown was announced in England, suggested it was being “hidden under the bad COVID-19 news”.

Another pointed out: “It is sad that the response to ‘women don’t feel safe in mixed toilets’ is ‘keep trans people out’, when really it should be ‘zero tolerance, and strict enforcement, against sexual harassment’.”

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has been approached by PinkNews for comment.

More: communities secretary, gender-neutral toilets, lockdown, review, Robert Jenrick

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