THE university is proposing “gender neutral” toilets in future to accommodate transgender students and staff.
According to the Wits anti-discrimination draft policy, all new buildings should have “gender neutral toilets, change-rooms and bathrooms”.
In addition, the draft policy states where applicable “all disabled toilets, change-rooms and bathrooms should be considered neutral spaces available for use by non-gender conforming staff and students with disabilities”.
Second-year bio-med student Alaine Marsden said gender neutral toilets are a necessity at Wits. “For gender variant individuals, we don’t feel safe going into bathrooms.”
Marsden, who is transgender, said the university needed to put the plan of introducing these bathrooms into action. “We don’t want spaces of contention, abuse and harassment. It will make us feel more at ease on campus.”
Marsden expressed fears of going into male or female bathrooms in the university. “I have to be careful,” said Marsden.
Diversity, ethics and social justice manager Pura Mgolombane told Wits Vuvuzela once the policy is approved it will then be put into the 2016 budget. “Some toilets’ signage will either be changed to a gender-neutral sign or new ones will be built, but it all depends on the approval of the policy,” he said.
First year BMus student Max Liebenberg said gender neutral toilets are the first step in fighting gender inequality. Liebenberg said for the convenience of transgendered individuals the university should make gender-neutral toilets available.
Foundation music student Shakeel Cullis said gender-neutral bathrooms and toilets are the norm in households. “I don’t see why it should be any different [at Wits],” said Cullis.
Heritage studies student Rita Potenza said men have the tendency to not keep their bathrooms clean and because of that, she would prefer to keep toilets separate.
“I wouldn’t want the unhygienic level [of male bathrooms] to spill over into the girls’ toilets,” said Potenza.
Francis Burger, MA Fine Arts, said if the university were to introduce neutral gender toilets she would prefer them.
“I prefer peeing standing up,” she said.
The University of Cape Town has introduced gender-neutral toilets on campus to accommodate transgender students and staff.
Gender-neutral facilities are common in many institutions in the United States of America. Other South African universities such as Rhodes University are also in the process of making these facilities available in line with anti-gender discrimination policies.