Women Win 'Urination Equality' Fight in Amsterdam

City will start installing more public toilets in October after years of protests
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 29, 2024 3:13 PM CDT
Women Win 'Urination Equality' Fight in Amsterdam
A public toilet facility in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands.   (Getty Images/janssenkruseproductions)

It's been almost a decade since Geerte Piening, a 21-year-old student living in Amsterdam, got fined for peeing in public after she couldn't find an accessible loo late at night. Now, women there are celebrating after a long fight to set up more public toilets in the Dutch city, which has announced it will start doing just that in October, at a cost of about $4.3 million, reports the NL Times.

  • 2015 incident: That's when Piening, after a late night out with friends at the bar, found herself on the street having to urinate, but with no public toilet in sight. She ended up going in an alleyway as friends shielded her and earning a $120 fine from police for public urination, per the Guardian.

  • Initial steps: Piening wrote a letter challenging her fine, noting there were nearly three dozen public urinals for men scattered throughout the city, but only three public toilets for women. "It doesn't only affect women, but also people in wheelchairs," she said.
  • Prolonged battle: She never heard back after writing her letter—until two years later, when she got summoned to court over her fine. All the judge did was cut the fine down to about $95, with the judge telling her she should've used a urinal. "It may not be pleasant, but it is possible," he said at the time.
  • Protests: That's when the highly publicized case spurred women across the nation to start demonstrating for "urination equality." Some even posted photos of themselves online "twisted in knots and attempting ambitious gymnastic poses" at urinals to show the judge how not-easy it is to answer nature's call at a urinal as a woman, per the Guardian.
  • Legislation: Piening eventually teamed up with Ilana Rooderkerk, a member of Amsterdam's City Council, to draft a law that would call for an expansion of public toilets. The bill was passed this month, with the first new public toilet to be installed in the Oosterpark in October. It's not clear how many toilets in total will be installed.
  • Reaction: Piening is thrilled she's finally going to see the fruits of her labor. "It took a while, but it is very good that it is happening," she tells Dutch broadcaster AT5.
(More Amsterdam stories.)

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