All new public buildings such as schools and hospitals must provide single-sex toilets, the government has announced.
The move was confirmed today by Minister for Equalities Kemi Badenoch.
Under the plans, separate unisex or gender-neutral toilets should be provided only if there is space, and they should not come at the expense of female facilities.
The announcement was met with approval by some women’s rights groups but others accused the government of stoking a culture war against trangender and non-binary people who face discrimination in public spaces.
The Department for Leveling up, Housing and Communities said: “The approach will mean women, who may need to use facilities more often, for example because of pregnancy and sanitary needs, have appropriate facilities.
“The rise in ‘gender neutral’ toilets raised safety concerns from women who feel they are losing privacy and being unfairly disadvantaged.”
Badenoch also claimed gender neutral toilets placed women at a “significant disadvantage” and that the “net effect is actually to reduce toilet provision for women”.
“It is vital that women feel safe and comfortable when using public facilities, and that their needs are respected,” she said.
“These changes will ensure that separate toilets for men and women are preserved at the same time as providing universal toilets for those that want them. This is a common sense approach.”
The government will also launch a consultation in the autumn to consider the design of unisex self-contained cubicles to “maximize privacy”.