The University of Johannesburg announced to students in a Facebook post on Thursday that it is running a pilot project to introduce gender-neutral bathrooms. New bathroom signs were put up yesterday at bathrooms at APK on the first floors of the library and in the main building of the University campus.
The Open Journal asked UJ students at APK how they felt about gender-neutral bathrooms on campus. Some of the responses were downright hilarious and most were a bit more serious.
Cindy Ruthven, 18, First-Year, Life Science Student (right)
“At least they’re trying to promote human rights so I think it’s actually a good thing. I think it’s cool but weird.”
Rose Jaure, 20, First-Year, Law Student
“It feels weird because usually it’s nice to have male and female bathrooms but it feels so uncomfortable because [if] you have to pee and there is a guy walking in there…I’d think I was in the wrong bathroom, but I guess they’re trying to be sensitive to include everyone. I don’t think gender neutral bathrooms are a good idea because males pee in a certain way and so do females, so why are they trying to change things now? It was so sudden they didn’t even tell us they would be implementing this. From the time you make changes you need to make people aware that there will be a change.”
Jordan Minnaar, 19, Second-Year, Journalism Student
“I feel that in a way it would impede privacy because ever since [we were young] have been taught to use bathrooms for one gender. I feel that since it’s become gender neutral, I feel it’s a bit controversial.”
Amber Delate, 22, Third-Year, BA Psychology
“Well, I mean. I wouldn’t have a problem with it if we didn’t have a problem with rape on the university campus and in South Africa as a whole. Also if we were better consulted.
Ashlin Patel, 20, Third-Year, Information Management Student
“It’s not a good idea because we’re not comfortable with girls in the same bathroom as us.”
Matshepo Selepe, 24, First-Year, Politics Student
Matshepo walked into what used to be the girl’s bathroom at D LES without noticing the new sign. She was shocked when she realised that the bathroom was gender neutral. She feared that sharing the bathroom with male students could compromise her safety. “Oh, my gosh, what if I get raped here?”
Omphemetse Manana, 20, Third-Year Strategic Communications Student
“I’m not for it in a way, and that’s not because I wouldn’t want a female in a males bathroom but I just think it’s more the opposite. Like the effect of having a male in such an intimate, private area especially like with all the history of rape in SA, I think that’s a very touchy-feely thing. I also don’t think it was structured and organised properly. The way they did it was not effective either. I think if they kept male and female and one that was unisex, it would be better. You should give people an option.”
It is clear that students are concerned about the lack of privacy and security that comes with having gender-neutral bathrooms. Students do however acknowledge the benefits of giving gender non-conforming students the option to use bathrooms where they are more comfortable. It is not yet clear if the gender-neutral bathrooms will be implemented permanently.