A unisex toilet in the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature
Activists say that the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature’s implementation of unisex toilets should be emulated by other government entities.
On Thursday, the Office of the Speaker confirmed that the Legislature building’s bathroom facilities in Pietermaritzburg would now be able to better accommodate gender non-binary individuals with the addition of some gender neutral bathrooms.
“As a Legislature we need to lead by example, ensuring the public that when we host sectors we are not doing it just to tick a box but for a meaningful public participation,” said Ntobeko Boyce, the Speaker of the Legislature.
Not all the toilets within the buildings have been converted but only those that are single rooms. “This ensures that the Legislature is compliant and addressing constitutional rights,” commented Boyce.
The move follows a landmark LGBTQIA+ Symposium hosted by the Legislature under the theme of “Ensuring Socio-Economic Stability and Safety for LGBTQIA+ Community” in April.
“Among other things, the non-provision of gender-neutral facilities such as ablution facilities was sharply raised and as a result thereof the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature has taken forward one of the resolutions that came out of the LGBTQIA+ Symposium, the call for unisex toilets,” said spokesperson Nomusa Phungula.
Same Love Toti’s Kim Lithgow commented that the move was an “encouraging” step. She described the LGBTQIA+ symposium as “a great day” in which the Speaker heard from diverse LGBTIQA+ voices.
“Many issues were raised, from SOGIESC (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression and Sex Characteristics) in schools, to lack of hormones from the state in KZN and the very pertinent question ‘how can you invite us and not provide toilets for us?'” Lithgow told MambaOnline.
Hlengiwe Buthelezi, Director of the KwaZulu-Natal LGBT Recreation organisation, also applauded the Speaker. “She is not just a talker but she also puts actions in place. We hope that other departments will follow suit.”
Buthelezi called for similar facilities to be offered in all government buildings, including schools and universities, as well as other public spaces like airports, restaurants and beaches.
Buthelezi noted that the issue of gender-neutral bathrooms was just one of several resolutions taken at the symposium, including commitments to economic empowerment for queer people, that must also be concretized.