Sanitation Justice

People without a safe toilet due to identity

Minorities are more likely to be harassed in segregated public toilet facilities. Facilities that meet the needs of cultural norms and identity are rare and often design of public toilets fails to accommodate the needs of minorities.


Any person who is denied access to a toilet because of their racial, sexual, or gender identity. People impacted include people of color, the LGBT community, and parents of young children who identify with a gender other than their birth sex. Harassment in bathrooms seem largely directed at transgender people in public spaces, especially transgender women. Religious or cultural identities that require cleansing habits also are challenged to find a toilet that will accommodate their needs.


Transgender individuals may suffer from harassment in segregated public toilet facilities. This may also occur in public schools. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed the segregation of public facilities based on race, but people of color still sometimes face discrimination when seeking restrooms. People who require access to water and a safe space to perform daily cleaning rituals may be left feeling shameful. 


“Bathroom bills” that require people to use the men’s or women’s according to the sex stated on their birth certificates place people at risk. The federal government has issued a directive in 2016 and an Executive Order in 2021 to prevent this type of discrimination, but reports of harassment remain. The role public toilets play in this human rights issue is to support people with safe access to meet physiological and cultural needs.