Girls feel too ashamed to use school unisex toilets, says campaign group

Women's groups are concerned about the end of single sex spacesREUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

The Welsh Government is to review the introduction of unisex toilets in schools after a campaign group said girls were suffering shame and embarrassment in using them because of their periods. 

The review was announced after Women's Voices Wales said that some girls were experiencing sexual harassment and 'period shaming' as a result of using unisex toilets. 

Official guidelines require that girls over the age of eight have access to single-sex toilets and that mixed toilets only be installed in addition to single-sex toilets, not to replace them. 

However, in a recent Facebook post, Women's Voices Wales said not all schools were meeting statutory requirements and that in some places, mixed toilets were replacing separate toilets for boys and girls. 

The group claimed that as a result of the changes, some girls are even missing school or going the whole day without drinking water because they don't like using the mixed toilets.

While schools have been introducing unisex toilets to prevent bullying and be more inclusive to transgender students, the group is concerned that students and parents are not being properly consulted. 

'We already know of some parents and girls who have raised concerns about mixed sex toilets, but found they were ignored and dismissed by school staff,' it said.

'We also know of parents and pupils who do not want mixed sex toilets, but did not know how to complain or who to raise concerns with.

'We know some schools seem to engage better with their school community than others, but it is clear there is a serious lack of consistency, and crucially, no centrally recorded data.

'What we've heard so far ranges from girls not drinking water during the day so they can avoid using the toilets, to 'period shaming' from boys.

'Anxiety about coping with menstruation in schools has a serious effect on female pupils, including refusing to attend school.'

It added: 'We are particularly concerned about any sexual harassment or intimidation taking place in mixed sex toilets.' 

According to the the Express, a Welsh Government spokesman has said the group's findings will be looked into to see if any more guidance is needed. 

'When local authorities develop new schools, key stakeholders are consulted during the process, including the governing body, school council, staff, and the pupils themselves to ensure that the school offers facilities that are fit for purpose,' the spokesman said.

'The Welsh Government has agreed to work with the Children's Commissioner's office to explore their findings on this issue and to consider whether further guidance to local authorities is required.'