Madras High Court Seeking Govt’s Response On Plea Of General Neutral Toilets Across States

The Madras High Court in the case Fred Rogers v. The Chief Secretary and others observed and has directed the State to respond to a petition seeking gender neutral public toilets across educational institutes, at bus stops, railway stations, airports and such other public places.

The bench comprising of Chief Justice T Raja and Justice Bharatha Chakravarthy in the case observed and has directed the counsel appearing for the state for seeking instructions and for responding the plea in a week.

In the present case, the said court was hearing a petition filed by transgender person. In the plea it has been claimed that though transgender persons in the state are given the choice to choose toilets of their own self-identified gender, in reality they are being harassed- verbally, physically and sometimes sexually, whenever they try to use the same.

The counsel, Advocate Arun Kasi, appearing for the petitioner, submitted before the court that the gender neutral toilets will not only help the gender non-confirming, non-binary, queer and other communities but will also help the disabled children or parents who need assistance of others (sometimes from opposite genders) for using the toilets.

It has also been submitted by the petitioner that such gender neutral toilets would promote inclusivity and remove the stigma surrounding gender nonconformity. It has also been argued before the court that providing public toilets to all members of the society is one of the duties of the government.

The court while finding the prayers to be genuine asked the State why appropriate steps are not being taken to address this issue. Adding to which, it has been responded by the State that constructing gender neutral toilets would require time.

Thus, the state also stated that it is not opposing the idea. Further, it has also been suggested by the said court that till the time gender neutral washrooms are constructed, some of the existing public toilets are to be converted into gender neutral toilets. The court noted that we do have a gender neutral toilet even in our High Court premises. While such toilets must be constructed, in the meantime, their problem can be solved if some of the existing public toilets are reserved to be used only by trans persons. Accordingly, the court adjourned the matter by a week wherein directing the State counsel to seek instructions.

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