June 29, 2023 - 10:55am

Police are investigating allegations that female pupils were sexually assaulted in “gender-neutral” lavatories at a school in Essex. A teenage boy has been arrested on suspicion of sexual assault, with three of the four alleged attacks apparently taking place in toilets used by both sexes.

Is anyone surprised? Campaigners for safety in schools have long warned that forcing girls to share toilets with male pupils exposes them to unnecessary risks. Girls want and need privacy, especially when their periods start and they have to use lavatories to change sanitary protection. But anyone who has ever met a teenage boy knows that some of them tease and humiliate girls, and it is absolute folly to allow them into what used to be an all-female space.

Conservative MP Miriam Cates made exactly this point in reaction to news about the alleged assaults, which was reported in the Daily Telegraph. “Gender-neutral facilities are a threat to the safety of women and girls because they create a private space hidden from the public view where assaults cannot be witnessed,” she said. 

The news comes as head teachers wait for new guidance from the Government on how to deal with trans-identifying pupils. It is expected to uphold the principle that students should not be allowed to use toilets designated for the opposite sex, but there are fears that it will not recognise “gender-neutral” facilities as a safeguarding risk.

Parents are already reporting that their daughters are trying to get through the school day without using the toilet. Two years ago, a senior police officer claimed that sexual abuse is widespread in schools. I have heard reports of girls in London wearing shorts under their uniform skirts to protect themselves from assaults by male pupils.  

The rapid spread of mixed-sex toilets doesn’t just affect educational establishments. Up and down the country, men and women are discovering that they’re expected to share toilets in theatres, museums and restaurants. None of us have ever been asked whether we want to lose privacy in this way — and, in my experience, men are as uneasy about it as women.

Earlier this year, at my local theatre in Hammersmith, I could only find “gender-neutral” toilets during the interval. I had to walk past five urinals to get to the only cubicle in what was clearly a “repurposed” men’s toilet. I felt very uncomfortable — and so did the man who walked in, caught sight of me and hurried out again. I wrote to the Lyric Theatre, asking who they consulted before imposing this monstrosity on theatregoers. They never replied.

For years, women’s toilets have been a place where we could take refuge, gossip with friends and escape unwanted attention from men in bars. Not any more. Now we are seeing the consequences of militant gender ideology, imposed without consultation or consent.

It’s a “solution” to a problem that doesn’t exist. Organisations which have bowed to the demands of trans activists are ignoring the privacy and preferences of most of the population, even though the number of trans individuals is very small. Their needs could be met by offering a third space, without forcing the rest of the population to share facilities against our will.

Activists have always rejected our concerns, trying to silence opposition with shouts of “transphobia”. Now their claims about “inclusivity” are being exposed for the sham that they are. There is nothing “inclusive” about forcing girls and women to feel unsafe when they need the loo.

Joan Smith is a novelist and columnist. She has been Chair of the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls Board since 2013. Her book Homegrown: How Domestic Violence Turns Men Into Terrorists was published in 2019.