Home PodcastJulie Alli Government prioritises unisex bathrooms over abolishing pit toilets

Government prioritises unisex bathrooms over abolishing pit toilets

by Salaamedia Intern
Government is aiming to to bring unisex bathrooms to schools before they abolish prit latrines Photo Pexels

South Africa – The Department of Education is considering introducing a set of rule-changes which include unisex bathrooms to schools in South Africa. The leaked document also includes the abolishment of gender-specific pronouns and adapting the curriculum. 

While the department has clarified the document is still a rough draft and is still going through consideration, many parents are outraged that a conversation about unisex bathrooms is taking place. Reverend Kenneth Meshoe, Founder of the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), believes this shows government’s priorities are in the wrong place. 

“Most parents are upset and do not agree with the plan of the Department of Education to introduce unisex toilets in the schools. It just shows how wrong government’s priorities are. There are children who are using undignified, dehumanising and unhygienic pit latrines. You would think that would be a priority for government. To ensure that all children have their dignity respected by ensuring they are given clean, healthy and dignified toilets. Now they want to come with something that is not a priority.”


Unisex bathrooms will not be safe for children 

South Africa is notorious for its gender-based violence crimes and is battling to solve them. Meshoe firmly believes having unisex bathrooms will only increase the chances of these crimes taking place amongst children. It is a proposal that will bring harm to children. 

“[Unisex bathrooms] is something that is controversial and is going to aid the young rapists to rape in the toilet. We know that South Africa is notorious for rape. Now a country that is notorious for a wrong thing is going to add another wrong thing. There are children who are already raped in schools, in classrooms. Now if they talk about having bathrooms that are used by both boys and girls, how many children are going to be raped in toilets? Government must be warned. As we speak right now, there are parents in Mpumalanga whose children were raped in school and they are suing the Department of Education.”

Before the government talks about unisex bathrooms, they must eliminate bucket toilets and pit latrines. It is particularly wrong for government to propose such when only 10% of those accused of rape are convicted, said Meshoe. 

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Unisex bathrooms in public

South African women took to the streets last year to protest how they are treated in public by men. With so many women feeling unsafe in public, this will only add to the list of dangers for them. This proposal comes from people who do not care about how women feel or about their safety, said Meshoe. 

“I think the people who are behind this don’t care about what’s happening with the rapes, the pain that women and children go through. We have eight-year-olds who are raped in schools. Government wants to give a licence to rapists to do it behind closed doors. Government is doing that which is clearly unacceptable. What they are doing is undermining the dignity of the people and what we are saying is not under our watch will this happen.”


The way forward on this issue

Instead of focusing on how to improve the education of the children and teaching methods, government is focused on unisex bathrooms. This speaks volumes to Meshoe and indicates the government doesn’t care about the education of children. “They are thinking about destroying the morals of children” and this cannot be allowed to happen, he said. 

“We are definitely going to make statements. We are going to make noise until they speak and say ‘we are not going to do this’. We are going to raise this matter in Parliament, on radios, on TV stations, on social media. They will regret that they even came up with this idea.”

A petition titled, ‘No to unisex bathrooms for schools in South Africa,’ was started on Change.org. On Tuesday, it had received just over 40 000 signatures. The Department of Education has stated they will publish the guidelines for consultation in 2023 so the public can have their say on it. 

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