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Gender-neutral toilets could lead to ‘schoolgirls getting UTIs because they don't want to share’, minister says

1 May 2024, 08:44 | Updated: 1 May 2024, 09:03

Kemi Badenoch asks for people to report public bodies which fail to offer single-sex spaces

By Jenny Medlicott

The Minister for Women and Equalities has said that failing to offer single-sex spaces leads to issues such as schoolgirls ‘getting urinary tract infections’ because they don’t want to share gender-neutral bathrooms with boys.

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Kemi Badenoch launched a ‘call for input’ on Wednesday morning, which asks people to report public bodies that fail to provide single-sex spaces.

It follows concern that publicly-owned institutions, such as the NHS, are misinterpreting guidance which states that people should not be allowed in such spaces based on their sex rather than gender identity.

Speaking to LBC’s Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, asked what the Government is looking for, Ms Badenoch said: “We are looking for examples where a public institution is either issuing guidance or has a policy that is not in accordance with the equality act when it comes to single-sex spaces.

She continued: “If I was to give an example as a school that had gender-neutral toilets and young girls there did not want to use the same toilets as the boys, so they weren’t going to the toilet at school, and got urinary tract infections.

“So this is obviously a terrible thing but the school thought they were following the guidance because they’d used some policy analysis that was done by an organisation that was not looking at the equality law.

“But I’m really looking at public institutions in particular. So we can’t be saying one thing while the institutions that are within our purview are doing another thing”.

The equalities minister said if they encounter such institutions, they should send an example to the Government and they “will look at it”.

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Watch Again: Nick Ferrari speaks to Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins

Explaining the action this could result in, she continued: “It might just be, as we’ve done with some schools on gender questioning guidance, looking at the guidance looking at the policy. Quite often, there are words embedded in documents written a long time ago which just need updating. So this is not something where we’re going out trying to catch people out, we want to help people do better”.

It comes after the Department of Health and Social Care said on Tuesday it is "defining sex as biological sex" under proposed changes to the NHS Constitution.

Under the proposed changes, it means hospital patients in England will have the right to request to be treated in single-sex wards.

As a result, transgender people could be placed in a room on their own. The update "is about putting patients first", ministers said.

However, the proposed move has been criticised by the British Medical Association, which suggested transgender and non-binary patients could "potentially find their access to vital NHS services limited" as a result.

Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing said changes to health policy should be done with patients "not unto them".

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast on Tuesday, Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said: "The NHS constitution is the document that brings together the values and principles of the NHS and, within it, it sets out the rights and responsibilities of patients, of staff, and also of the public."

She continued: "We're updating it on a range of measures, including really putting biological sex into the wording of the constitution in order to ensure that patients are treated with privacy, dignity and safety.

"But also, we're putting in measures such as Martha's rule."

Martha's rule allows patients to request an urgent review by a different team if they feel they are not receiving the right care.

When asked about how the decisions would be made, Ms Atkins said: "Where possible, we would want a person to be treated in the way that they would wish to be treated whilst balancing the wishes of others.

"The people running the ward have to take into account the views of everybody on that ward."

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