Public restroom sign on the wood 3D design and rendering for your project. Photo: iStock/Getty Images
Public restroom sign on the wood 3D design and rendering for your project. Photo: iStock/Getty Images

Shanghai aims to open its first unisex restroom to the public today — which just happens to be World Toilet Day — in the city’s bid to encourage more Chinese to use them.

The unisex restroom, which has been in use on a trial basis since November 8, is in a park alongside the Zhangjiabin River in Pudong district.

It aims to reduce the time women wait in in long queues to use the toilet, according to the Shanghai Public Sanitation Bureau.

“It is progressive that Chinese people are gradually accepting the idea of a unisex toilet,” said Xiao Meili, a feminist who had launched the so-call “Occupy Men’s Toilets” campaign in Beijing in 2012, urging the government to increase the ratio of female-male toilets.

However,the spread of unisex toilets is not necessarily a sign of people’s growing awareness of gender identification, Xiao emphasised.

Unisex toilets began to appear in Shenyang in 2013, and spread to Chongqing and Chengdu in 2015. Most of them have been opened for people’s convenience, rather than to benefit sexual minorities in society.

A lot of portable toilet cubicles that both men and women can use are located in high-traffic areas like train stations, according to Xiao. This is efficient and is environmentally friendly.

Beijing started promoting an “All Gender Toilet” on International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia on May 17. By sticking a third gender logo – a split figure of a man and woman – on toilet doors in Sanlitun.

The NGOs that organized the campaign hoped to draw people’s attention to the plight of sexual minorities by encouraging people to use unisex toilets.

In a survey conducted on social media by China Nation Radio on Sunday, 50% of people showed support for unisex toilets as an effective use of public resources. While 30% expressed concerns about security and privacy issues.

The design of the new unisex toilet in Shanghai shows an effort to improve the restroom experience, with privacy guaranteed by ceiling to floor cubicle walls.

An LED screen shows the usage status of each cubicle and background music is played to disguise loud noises being heard as a person take a dump.

The female-male ratio of public toilets in China will be raised to 3:2 to mark World Toilet Day, the Housing and Urban-Rural Development Ministry said on its website on Nov. 18.

In some densely populated areas, the ratio is set to be 2:1. The new standard aims to address the issue of women spending more time than men waiting in long toilet queues and will take effect on Dec. 1.