The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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All flushed over potty parity
- NY women to have two toilets for every men’s room

Washington, May 28: New Yorkers are patting themselves on the back this weekend for having set new standards in gender equality in the Big Apple.

In the race to dispose of pending business before this long Memorial Day weekend, New York’s City Council has unanimously passed far-reaching legislation designed to end long lines in women’s toilets.

The standards they have set by adopting the bill are part of a trend that is spreading in America with maniacal zeal.

The measure’s detractors call it “potty parity” and dub it no more than an attempt to create “porcelain equality” between men and women.

But its advocates think their mission could easily spread to India ' and to every other part of the world, for that matter.

Pompously titled the “Women’s Restroom Equity Bill”, the legislation will require all new specified public facilities in New York City to build two women’s toilet units for each men’s urinal on the premises.

It stipulates that bars, movie theatres, concert halls and similar establishments that can accommodate up to 150 people must have at least one men’s urinal and two women’s toilets.

Similarly, public places which can serve between 151 and 300 people must have at least two toilets for men and a minimum of four such stalls for women.

If an establishment can accommodate 301 to 450 patrons, it must have three toilets for men and six for women... and so it goes on.

Restaurants, schools, hospitals and municipal buildings have been excluded from the bill, for now.

Existing establishments will have to meet the potty ratio as and when they are renovated.

In New York’s City Council, the bill’s chief sponsor is a Democrat, Yvette D. Clarke, who has been labelled a “feminazi” by critics of the measure.

They not only think she is taking an issue of gender equality too far, but also that her bill is no more than populist.

They argue that since only new constructions are required to have the 2:1 ratio for women’s and men’s toilets, it may be a decade or so before a reasonable number of New York establishments actually have adequate toilet facilities for women.

Besides, the bill has a loophole. If a bar-owner, for instance, declares that all his toilets are unisex, he need not comply with its new provisions.

Most small establishments are simply expected to continue to have minimum facilities, but open to both sexes, making the lines for answering nature’s call even longer.

For the moment at least, this is not something that bothers Clarke or even New York's mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg faces re-election soon and is loath to alienate the large female vote bank in the Big Apple.

For that reason, the mayor is expected to quickly sign the bill into law.

The unanimous passage of the legislation in a City Council, which is often the hotbed of rivalries, sent a clear signal: no council member was willing to be seen as anti-women.

Clarke described the passage of her bill as “a quantum leap into the 21st century”.

That may well be an exaggeration, but the legislation has certainly caught the imagination of women in New York.

Several of them have been narrating their toilet woes to the city’s tabloids, which are having a whale of a time with “potty parity” stories.

These include accounts by women who rushed into men’s toilets in desperation to relieve themselves, research about the relative bladder sizes of men and women and precise details about how long it takes for women to get back into a concert hall at specific locations.

California, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Washington states already have “restroom equity” laws, a trend that has the potential to spread worldwide because of what its supporters call the universal nature of the problem.

The original lawsuit charging inadequate toilet facilities in public places as a form of sexual discrimination was filed by a man.

“There are actually two doctoral theses on what makes women take longer in rest rooms than men,” says that complainant, John Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University here.

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