Public peeing case in Amsterdam sparks scrutiny in Groningen

The public peeing case in Amsterdam sparks a debate about access to toilets in other Dutch cities, such as Groningen, revealing the unequal amount of toilets provided for men, women and handicapped.

Of a total of 21 toilets and urinals in Groningen, six are reserved for women and two for disabled people, the Groningen municipality’s communications officer Mirjam van der Feen told The Scoop on Wednesday.

The outrage of lack of public toilets was sparked by the case where a Dutch woman, Geerte Piening, was fined 90 euros for peeing in public in the center of Amsterdam in 2015. Having taken the case to the court, she was told on Monday by the judge that she should have used a male urinal. “It would not be pleasant but it can be done,” the male judge said.

Amsterdam has 35 male urinals, but only three public toilets designed for women. The situation is better in Groningen, but not good enough, according to critics.

“It is a problem in the whole Netherlands. There are not many toilets. I had to walk here from the other side of the town to come to this one on the market,” Els Bokhorst told The Scoop at the Grote Markt public toilet and pointed towards the southern border of the city center, located at a 15-minute walking distance.

The public toilet at Grote Markt is open around the clock and costs 50 cents. Half of the toilets for women involve a fee.

Jolanda de Vries parks her bike next to the toilet and looks for a coin in her wallet. She is happy to share her dissatisfaction with the restrooms. There should be more public toilets and they should be free of charge, she insisted.

“For women there’s nothing. Just this one [on Grote Markt] and you have to pay. I can understand why women pee in bushes. You cannot go to the urinals, it’s horrible,” she continued.

A feminist, Floor Bakker, from the organization Women’s March Groningen, has not seen a lack of female toilets in Groningen. “I was actually happy to see that the public toilets in Groningen are often not urinals, so they are accessible for women as well,” Bakker said.

However, after seeing the data provided by the municipality, she sees that there are actually less toilets for women. “That seems quite unequal in numbers. Half of the population is women, so maybe half of the toilets should be designed for women,” she said.

The lack of public toilets affects disabled people as well as women. Bakker was struck by how few toilets are designed for people with handicaps. “It might be possible to use the urinals for women, but if you are in a wheelchair there is no chance that you could pee in there,” she said.

The public toilet on Grote Markt is one of the city’s two disabled-friendly toilets, according to the municipality.

However, Johan Oltman and his partner find it difficult to use the toilet because it is poorly accessible. Both are disabled, moving around in the city with motorized scooters. Johan Oltman watches his partner getting up from her scooter and walking down the stairs to toilet, holding the railing.

“There should be toilets with stair lifts for handicapped people,” Oltman said. “There are public toilets in stores, but we don’t have access to them because of the stairs,” he added.

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