A female campaigner has asked for the government to reconsider plans for gender neutral toilets because they are allowing “males into female changing rooms” resulting in “bad stuff” happening to women.
The comments come after The Sunday Times published a report into sexual offences occurring within unisex changing rooms. In the article, it is reported that almost 90% of reported sexual assaults and harassment happen in the changing rooms of sports centres and swimming pools with unisex facilities.
The Sunday Times obtained the data from Freedom of Information requests from councils, although it did not specify how many councils it approached or how many sports centres and pools were included in the data.
It found that out of 134 reported incidents last year, 120 occurred in unisex changing rooms and the other 14 in single-sex facilities.
'It doesn't make sense to give men greater access'
The report comes after the government is planning to hold a consultation on the Gender Recognition Act, on whether to allow transgender people to self-identify as women without a medical diagnosis.
MP David Davies, told The Sunday Times: “These figures show that women and girls are more vulnerable in mixed changing rooms and there is a danger these places are becoming a magnet for sexual offenders.
“It simply doesn’t make sense to enable men to have greater access to women’s spaces. The reforms to gender recognition will grant that access.”
Dr Nicola Williams, spokeswoman for Fair Play for Women, told Julia Hartley-Brewer on talkRADIO that it’s “common sense” to have separate female and male facilities to prevent this from happening.
“You allow males into females changing rooms and bad stuff happens to women, that’s why single sex spaces were created in the first place,” she added.
It’s been argued that creating unisex changing facilities will cut costs and are cheaper for local authorities to build.
“You’ve got to look at who these facilities serve, these facilities are cheaper to build and they cut staff costs, but the obvious reason, this is a really easy way to cater for trans people because it avoids the problem.
“It means organisation that otherwise would be able to tackle which males to allow in or not, they’ve opened them up and allowed them all in, that’s not their problem anymore and they’ve pushed the problem onto women.”
Williams told Hartley-Brewer that there’s been an “unbalanced” debate on the issue, as she feels trans groups have become “powerful”.
“It sounds progressive to have gender neutral or self-identification, but it’s not progressive is it?
“Gender neutral means mixed sex, so the government have been hoodwinked by these really powerful trans lobby groups.”
“These groups have become powerful because they’ve got a lot of funding, they get a lot of air time, and big organisations have given so much air time for transgender people to explain what they want, but its very difficult for a women to be able to stand up to say, ‘actually that might affect us, we need to talk about it,’ it’s so unbalanced.
“Something like these gender neutral changing rooms it’s really important, because the stuff that goes on, now with mobile phones, they go under the gap of the bottom of cubicles, and you can get tiny secret cameras now, and all this stuff ends up on porn sites.”
Portugal, Malta, Norway, Denmark, Ireland and Belgium all currently have the self-identification system, which means transgender people do not need documentation to verify their new gender.
Sara Phillips of the Transgender Equality Network Ireland told PinkNews there was “no evidence of the system being abused” since it was introduced in 2015.