If you go to the website of the municipality of Amsterdam you can find a beautiful map of all the public bathrooms in the city. It won’t take long until you realise that people with penises have about twice as many options as people with vaginas for where to pee.
In 2017, a young woman went to Court after being fined for peeing in a quiet street while friends were keeping watch. At the time, Amsterdam had 35 urinals available for people with penises while only three public bathrooms for people with vaginas in the city. In Court, the woman was told she could have used the urinals designed for people with penises and was not exempt from the fine. The decision sparked protests as the pee curls, which they are called, are completely open from the ground up to about 50 cm, making them practically impossible for people with vaginas to use without exposing themselves, if used squatting.
In India, public urinals are generally free for men to use while women are often charged a fee ranging from one to five rupees. In Mumbai, three out of four public toilets are designated for men. Many of the supposedly “free” toilets are manned by workers who charge illegal fees to collect the profits for themselves. Women are told that their toilets require more resources than urinals as they need a squat toilet, doors for privacy and access to water.
This is also a class issue. While wealthy women can often pop into a restaurant to relieve themselves while shopping or running errands, the average Indian woman is likely to encounter discrimination if they tried to do the same.
The accessibility and design of urinals and public bathrooms relate to a central target of feminist theory and debate, namely the public/private divide. The patriarchal order privileges the public sphere and associates this with men, while women are associated with the private sphere. Consciously and unconsciously this translates to cismen often being accommodated in their public needs, while the needs of people of another or no gender are excluded in matters of city planning and design.
In the UK, various proposals for female urinals had been rejected because they expose women in public. In 2018, the city of Paris set up many eco-friendly urinals for men, some of these at the most beautiful tourist sights in the city. Meanwhile, no equivalent solutions were provided for women. The good news? The invention and production of urinals for people with vaginas are on the rise, including the Lapee which has been purchased for several festivals.