Updated: Feb 15, 2020
Potty Parity. Sounds funny. It is not. Quite simply, it means an equitable access to restroom facilities for everyone regardless of gender. The lack of parity in this basic human right is shocking and hit me up close and personally during our family vacation last year.
We were enjoying Disney World, Orlando and the kids were having the time of their lives in the “happiest place on earth”. After finishing a show at Animal Kingdom, our 3 year old wanted to go to the restroom. My wife took her to the nearest women’s bathroom and it had a long line. My kid was in discomfort and my wife noticed that the men’s restroom had no lines. So, I rushed to take her but by the time I could get her situated in the restroom, it was too late. The 3 year old could not hold it any longer and wet her pants. While she acted super coolly, we were flummoxed. The situation was brought under control and we went on with our day. But before going to bed, my daughter pointed out the obvious issue which we did not see. “Papa, girls always have to wait in line to go pee pee but boys don’t.’’ Then she thumped the floor with her little feet and said “IT’S NOT FAIR!.” This unfairness repeated every single day for the rest of our trip (albeit without any more accidents). I did not do anything about it except getting angry a couple of times. I should have brought this to the attention of the park’s friendly staff or call them later. I didn't.
The trip ended but I couldn’t stop thinking about the incident and my lack of action. I kept thinking that maybe I am overreacting because we had this experience. But this problem is not limited to Disney World. My kids experienced the same stress at several public places just like several women globally. According to WaterAid, 1 in 3 women globally do not have access to safe toilets. That is just unacceptable. In fact, up until 2010, women representatives in the U.S. Congress did not have access to restrooms near the floor of the house. The more I read, the more it became clear that this blatant gender discrimination is more often than not, a direct result of traditional societal mindset, older building ordinances, lack of state or federal regulations and financial results superseding the anatomical needs of women ,.
Are we doing anything about this?
Several laws are being passed globally to fix this issue. For example: NY has passed a law requiring public places to have a 2:1 ratio of bathroom access for women in public places. Illinois passed The Equitable Restrooms Act requiring all single-occupancy public bathrooms to be labeled as gender-neutral starting Jan. 1. The Indian Government has installed more than 1 million toilets since 2016. But it’s not enough. This is not just an issue of stress and inconvenience. It is a significant health risk too!!!
What more can we do?
I will admit I am not 100% sure but the following steps seem a logical way of making our contribution:
Understand the bathroom laws in our neighborhood, village, town or city. We cannot fix what we don’t know.Talk to your local government representative and voice support for laws like Equitable Restroom law passed in IL in our neighborhood and apply them locally.Have your local government body change laws requiring new buildings and public spaces to ensure women have more restrooms. The 2018 Internal Plumbing Code is already making moves in the right direction and such changes need to be brought in our cities and villages.Support non profit organizations who are trying to make a difference. WaterAid is one such organization.
None of the steps or laws are perfect. But it’s better than having a 3 year old experience a bathroom accident in the “happiest place on earth”. I know who I am calling. Do you?