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‘Loo-dicrous’ : China’s government weighs in on why there aren’t enough public toilets for women

Long lines of women queuing up to go the toilet in cities in China may finally be a thing of the past after the government’s top urban planning agency has issued a directive increasing the ratio of women’s lavatory stalls to men’s that should be provided in public conveniences.

There should two women’s public lavatory stalls for every one for men in more populous areas such as shopping malls and a ratio of three to two in other areas, according to the latest design standard set by the government.

The initiative was announced ahead of World Toilet Day this Saturday.

The directive comes into force on December 1 and was reported by the China Construction newspaper, which is under the control of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development.

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The report said the ministry introduced the new standards after studying the toilet habits of more than 720,000 people and the aim was to address the shortage of lavatories for women.

There have been calls for years in China for more toilets to be provided for women and end the agonising queuing at public lavatories.

A report released three years ago by the Gender Equality Advocacy and Action Network, an NGO, said women spent on average 89 seconds in public toilets while men spent 39.

The report also found there were more public toilets provided for men in all the big cities it surveyed, including Beijing, Tianjin and Guangzhou.

The Chinese feminist Li Tingting launched a headline-making campaign, “Occupy Men’s Rooms”, in Guangzhou four years ago to raise awareness of the lack of public loos for women.

A previous government standard set in 2005 suggested the ratio of women’s toilet stalls to men’s be set at between equal numbers for each sex and three to two in favour of women.

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Some local governments have already been tackling the thorny problem.

Zhuhai in Guangdong province requires all the public toilets to have three lavatories for women for every two for men.

Twice the number of toilets are provided for women than men around the famous West Lake tourist attraction in Hangzhou.

The World Toilet Day was launched in July 2013 to tackle the global sanitation crisis.

About 2.4 billion people worldwide live without toilets and one in 10 people have to defecate in public, the World Health Organisation says.