Woman in Amsterdam wins fight for more accessible public toilets

10th of May 2024
Woman in Amsterdam wins fight for more accessible public toilets

A nine-year campaign for washroom equality in Amsterdam has finally paid off.

Geerte Piening spearheaded the campaign after being fined for urinating in public in 2015.

She committed the offence because she needed to use the loo one night late when the bars were all closed and the nearest public washroom was two kilometres away. She was spotted by police and issued with a €140 penalty.

But the following day, she woke up in a fury at the injustice. "There were a lot of urinals for men nearby but I couldn't go anywhere to pee," she said. "I thought, OK, this is an issue."

Piening, who was 21, wrote to the authorities challenging her fine and pointing out that Amsterdam had 35 urinals but only three public toilets for women. "It doesn't only affect women, but also people in wheelchairs," she said. "It's really important that there are places for everyone."

Before her court appearance she shared her views on social media, which prompted journalists to cover the case. The judge reduced her fine to €90 but told Piening she should have used one of the men's urinals instead.

This statement caused further comment and ridicule on social media, eventually attracting the attention of Amsterdam city councillor Ilana Rooderkerk. The two women then worked together to lobby for legislation calling on Amsterdam to increase the number of accessible public toilets.

In April it was finally agreed that new wheelchair-accessible public toilets would be available in the city from October. "The past nine years had been a test of patience, one that had at times been overwhelming," said Piening. "But how do I feel about it? Really good."



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