As part of its campaign against discrimination, the Manila City government has mandated all establishments to have gender-neutral toilets by 2023.
"Within 3 years from the passage of this ordinance, there shall be provided gender-neutral toilets inside the lavatory or comfort room of restaurants, bars, stores, movie houses, shopping malls, and other similar business establishments in the City of Manila," City Ordinance No. 8695 or the Manila LGBTQI Protection Ordinance of 2020 reads.
Having gender-neutral toilets means allotting toilets that are not labeled by the traditional "men" and "women" labels, but instead are open for all, regardless of gender.
"In large establishments, where there are several lavatories or comfort rooms in each floor, the designation shall be made to a specific floor where gender-neutral toilets are located," the ordinance adds.
It adds that having gender-neutral toilets is set to become a requirement for the approval and renewal of business permits in the national capital.
The establishment of gender-neutral toilets prevents discrimination against transgender people, who are often harassed in bathrooms of their birth-assigned sex and bathrooms for the sex they transitioned to.
This discrimination was put on full display in August 2019, when a transgender woman, Gretchen Diez, was blocked from using the women's bathroom in a Quezon City mall.
Quezon City has an anti-discrimination ordinance, so Diez documented the incident. It agitated the mall staffer, who then dragged Diez to their staff room and had her arrested by police. Diez was released hours later after the staffer faced backlash on social media.
Gender-neutral bathrooms, however, don't just benefit members of the LGBTQ+ community. Unisex public toilets lead to equal sanitation space for all genders, preventing the prospect of unused cubicles in the male toilets.
Gender-neutral bathrooms are also helpful for people with disabilities who have caregivers of the opposite sex. – Rappler.com
Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.