Transpersons in Delhi may soon have over 500 earmarked toilets in the city, with the civic body planning to retrofit and modify its existing facilities, in a bid to ease access for a group that has just two public restrooms set aside for them in the national capital.
The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) will, to this effect, likely alter a policy to allow these modifications, which will allow transpersons to use 480 existing toilet complexes that are currently designated for people with disabilities, said officials aware of the move.
Separate sections for transpersons will be added to 37 under-construction toilet complexes, the officials added, taking the number of such facilities across the city to 517. Further, all public toilets built in the city will need to ensure a separate section for transpersons, civic body officials said.
A senior official from the MCD sanitation department said the city does not have any MCD-operated public toilets for transpersons. The only two public toilets for transpersons are run by the New Delhi Municipal Council, which administers the Lutyens’ zone.
“As an interim solution, we have decided to re-designate sections of toilet meant for people with disability, so that they can be used by transpersons. These sections are rarely used and are meant to cater to one person at a time. Orders have been issued to make modifications necessary for a separate entry and exit and to put up signboards marking the toilets appropriately,” the official quoted above said.
Another MCD official said that the civic body is also amending contracts for all under-construction toilet complexes so that they can incorporate separate sections for transpersons.
“These toilet complexes are being constructed on a ‘build-operate-transfer’ basis. We have asked contractors to add separate sections for transpersons in all the 37 complexes. All future projects will incorporate this clause,” the official added.
Three dozen sites earmarked for addition of separate blocks are mostly located in north and central Delhi and include high footfall sites like Gaffar market in Karol Bagh, Ajmeri Gate, the parade ground near Red Fort, New Delhi Railway Station, Rajendra Place Metro station, Bank Street in Karol Bagh, Arya Samaj Road, Subhash Park near Jama Masjid and Britannia Chowk, among others.
The five spots where alterations will be carried out in existing toilet complexes to make new spaces include areas in outer Delhi including Rohini Sector 18, Nangloi, Mangolpuri and Jawalapuri.
Activists welcomed the “long pending” move.
Anjan Joshi, a health activist who works with the LGBTQI community, said the lack of toilets hindered transpersons’ quality of life.
“Imagine — we are living in the national capital, which is visited by people come from all over country. But, there are just a couple of public toilets in the whole city earmarked for use by people from the transgender community. It is a huge problem to navigate everyday life, said Joshi.
Chandni, a transperson who lives in the Capital agreed.
“Nobody says anything, but the way people look at me when I visit a public women’s washroom is unnerving. The experience makes us very uncomfortable and there is clear need to separate public toilets for the community,” she said.
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, which was cleared by Parliament in 2019, criminalises discrimination against a transgender person and mandates equal access to public spaces.
According to the MCD’s project report, a copy of which HT has seen, more than 70% of the 480 sites will be located in the south Delhi zone (which also includes parts of west Delhi).
East Delhi will have 94 such toilet units and North Delhi 39.
NDMC has also decided to increase the number of earmarked restrooms, and will build 10 more at Lodhi Garden, Laxmibai Nagar, near Safdarjung Hospital, Akbar Lane, Panchkuian Road, Copernicus Marg and has also set up provisions to build four toilets in blocks ‘A’,’B’, ‘D’ and ‘F’ of Connaught Place.
Birbal Das, who works as a caretaker of one of the two toilets for transpersons, said Delhi needs to build more toilets for transgenders. “This is a basic humanitarian issue. They are harassed everywhere. We have 1-2 trans visitors every day and footfall is low, but I am often told that men do not allow them to enter normal toilets while females also feel reluctant to share the space. Solution is only building more such units,” Das said.