Public toilets for third gender need of the hour

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Public toilets for third gender need of the hour

Urooz Rizvi Hussain said that it's time that we liberate the washrooms from gender binary

Public toilets for third gender need of the hour

New Delhi: Although there have been demands from the community for a long time now, dedicated toilets for non-binary individuals at public places remains a distant dream. There has been no significant development in this area. There is a lack of proper infrastructure to provide dedicated toilets for non-binary persons.

As the Pride Month is going on, CitySpidey talked to many non-binary individuals and raised their issues. Urooz Rizvi Hussain, a trans woman entrepreneur and social activist, said that it's time that we liberate the washrooms from gender binary. She said that the non-binary individuals are struck with a thought – which bathroom am I less likely to be harassed in?

She said, “Malls, cinema halls, metro stations, petrol pumps, schools and colleges should have toilets for the third gender, I understand that women might not get comfortable with gender neutral toilets in our country.”

Hussain shared her own experience and said that it's embarrassing for them to use the washrooms with all that judgmental gazes. “My trans men fellow mates can't step out of their houses while they bleed on their menstruation days. Men's washroom doesn't have facilities for sanitary napkins and dustbins. There are no advertisements/campaigns in my knowledge that have acknowledged the fact that 'trans men bleed', building third gender friendly toilets can make my community feel more safe and accepted,” Hussain added.

Hussain also highlighted the importance of sex education and sensitisation, she said that we shouldn't be ashamed of our own culture and traditions while talking about Shiva as 'Ardh-Nareshwar' and Shikhandi from Mahabharat.

Abhina Aher, 44, a resident of Delhi who struggled while coming to terms with her gender identity said that it's difficult for people who have undergone sex reassignment surgeries to hold their pee. She said, “Transitions happen in phases, surgery and hormonal therapy takes time to incorporate, a trans man or a trans woman has to face negative comments and get uncomfortable gazes from people whenever they use washrooms. I also got a urinary tract infection.”

The issue was brought to the fore by many trans persons. It is not that there has been no action. In 2014, the Supreme Court accorded “third gender” status to transgender people and an individual's rights to determine the gender they identify with. The verdict included a directive for separate toilets for transgender individuals in public places including hospitals.

However, even if the authorities have come up with plans to address the issue, it is quite evident that the developments have not come at a pace which was required. There have been actions but they were in bits and pieces.

To the solace of people belonging to non-binary group, the national capital has moved in the direction of providing facility. On Monday, the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) inaugurated the first public toilet for exclusive use by the third gender people. The toilet facility was inaugurated at the Press Club of India parking near Shastri Bhawan.

“There is also a plan for constructing more such facilities after assessing feasibility and identification of sites in NDMC areas,” a senior civic body official said. Incidentally, in January, the NDMC had announced plans for construction of separate toilets for trans persons in its annual budget.

Recently, the Delhi government had also directed all its departments, district authorities, municipal corporations and autonomous bodies to set up separate toilet facilities for transgender persons at their respective offices in the national capital.

After the inauguration of first public toilet for third gender, CitySpidey talked to persons belonging to the community. Abhina Aher said, “We welcome the move by the NDMC because we know how difficult it is for people like us to access public urinals. When we use the women's toilet, people make rude comments and attendants aren't happy to let us in.”

Aher also said, “Airports, railway stations and other public places should have a third gender toilet, she tells trans people are shy to express and their jobs are not easy, they are mostly roaming on roads and when these people are denied access to the washrooms they are forced to wear pads to pee in pants.”

Anjali Gopalan, an Indian Human Rights and Animal Rights activist, founder and executive director of The Naz Foundation Trust, is also a strong advocate for the sexual health and rights of the LGBTQAI+ community. She said, “Every public place should consider the queer community while planning to make toilets, the toilets could either be made gender neutral or a third gender toilet must be introduced to schools, colleges, malls, metro stations and cinema halls.”