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A sign for a male public toilet in Amsterdam | © Andy Blackledge / Flickr
A sign for a male public toilet in Amsterdam | © Andy Blackledge / Flickr
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Protests in Amsterdam Over Lack of Female Toilets

Picture of Tom Coggins
Updated: 27 September 2017
On Friday 22nd September, a group of protesters marched to Leidseplein in Amsterdam to demonstrate against the lack of suitable public toilets in the city. Around ten female protesters then proceeded to openly urinate on the square to highlight the local government’s inadequate response to issues concerning public restrooms.

While most public areas in Amsterdam feature outdoor urinals designed for men, there are only around three public toilets with stalls in the city. This means that it is notoriously difficult for women to find suitable places to relieve themselves in Amsterdam – especially after the city’s bars close for the night.

In 2015, a local woman called Geerte Piening was fined for urinating near Leidseplein, but decided to contest the charge in court to highlight the shortage of adequate toilets. The judge at this hearing, which took place earlier this year, dismissed her complaint and stated that although it would have been unpleasant, she should have used the male urinals. He also told Piening that she was the first woman he had encountered with this problem, implying that the lack of female facilities in Amsterdam isn’t an issue.

A public urinal in Amsterdam
A public urinal in Amsterdam | © FaceMePLS / Flickr

Soon after the ruling, discussions relating to women’s access to public toilets started to circulate via social media and protests were planned over Facebook. Although an initial event on Leidseplein was cancelled due to the overwhelming number of attendees on Facebook, around 40 people decided to march to the square on Friday night anyway and held an impromptu demonstration.

After arriving on Leidseplein, several female protesters then placed printed copies of the Judge’s verdict on the street and then urinated directly onto the ruling. ‘It really sucks that he said “women never do this.”’ One participant told the Culture Trip, referring to the judge in question, ‘And apparently it is not a problem. So we thought, OK, we will show you that this is a problem.’

Another source at the demonstration explained that the judge’s ruling highlighted how women are not taken as seriously as men in the public space. ‘It shows a lack of respect for women’, she stated. ‘I think that this is a topic that has always been there in the back of our minds and now it’s been voiced a lot of people are naturally agreeing with it and supporting action.’

Since the court case, many people have shown solidarity on social media by posting messages or pictures under the hashtag #wildplassen – the Dutch term for public urination.