Fujian short on ladies' rooms, considering unisex facilities

Updated: 2012-01-17 08:31

By Tan Zongyang and Hu Meidong (China Daily)

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 Fujian short on ladies' rooms, considering unisex facilities

Women tourists wait in line to use the ladies' room at Wanluyuan Scenic Zone in Haikou, capital of Hainan province, in 2009. Shi Yan / for China Daily

FUZHOU - Wu Jie, a 26-year-old woman in Fuzhou, Fujian province, loves going to the movies with her boyfriend but hates the inevitable long wait for the bathroom afterward.

"It seems like there are never enough women's toilets in public spaces," she said.

Wu said she has suffered the same frustration everywhere she goes, but her boyfriend never has this problem.

Wu's plight and that of other urban women have not gone unnoticed by Gan Duanrong, the head of a women's federation in Quanzhou in Fujian and a local political adviser in the province.

At the plenary meeting of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Fujian Committee last week, Gan submitted a motion to make more restrooms in the province unisex as a solution to the problem.

"It is different from the past when women tended to stay at home. Now, more and more women engage in public activities, which makes the lack of ladies' rooms a pressing issue," Gan said.

In the motion, Gan suggested that the city government should either increase the number of toilets in women's restrooms or make more restrooms unisex.

However, Gan's suggestion has sparked controversy on the Internet. Some people feel the idea is too bold and would threaten women's privacy.

"It is hard for me to accept unisex toilets, because Chinese culture stresses that males and females should be clearly distinguished," said a 28-year-old woman in Fuzhou, who only gave her surname as Lu.

"I feel uncomfortable when thinking that the person in the next bathroom stall might be of a different gender."

Some netizens also said people might take advantage of the situation to do things such as illegally installing cameras for peeping.

"Generally speaking, public toilets should not be built as unisex lavatories because the sanitary facilities are different and people's gender awareness is increasing," said Du Lianlian, an official at the Shanghai administration on city appearance and environmental sanitation.

But she said unisex toilets could be used as temporary portable toilets at construction sites and for large gatherings and events at which space and facilities are limited.

Du said a more practical method was to increase the proportion of women's units to a large degree.

Shanghai, the host city of 2010 World Expo, mandated that the number of female units in business districts and shopping centers should be two to three times that of male units.

With the fast pace of urbanization and rapid population growth in cities, the shortage of restrooms has been a black eye for city authorities.

Guangzhou, a metropolis with a population of 12 million, has only 907 public restrooms in the downtown area, falling short of the demand by hundreds, according to Xinhua News Agency.

"I know the motion is not perfect in design, but I want to raise public awareness of the problem and change the status quo little by little," Gan said.

China Daily

(China Daily 01/17/2012 page7)