Media Release 19 April 2017
The AskMeFirst campaign which was launched in February has released its second YouTube video highlighting the decision of Auckland University of Technology (AUT) to reassign over 165 toilets to be All-Gender toilets – a decision labelled by a group of current students as ‘irresponsible’, ‘backward’, culturally insensitive and unsafe.
“We were contacted by a number of current female students of AUT who were concerned with the decision but said they were never consulted on the changes and also feel that it would be unsafe to speak up. It is shocking that they are made to feel this intimidated in expressing their view on such a personal safety issue – a view that is probably held by many others students, including male students,” says spokesperson and researcher Rachel McKenzie.
“Students have a fundamental right to bodily privacy. Being around a biological male, in a bathroom or changing room, for women and girls who have been a victim of sexual or physical violence can be a trigger for them. The need for privacy in bathrooms and changing rooms for vulnerable young girls also becomes even more important in light of the emotional and physical changes we experience as women.”
In a touch of irony, some of the female toilets became All-Gender, but the male toilets stayed male. The students called out AUT on this. Anika (not her real name) asks “If AUT is all for equality, how is this an option that gives all students equal rights? AUT should be protecting its female students. This decision doesn’t make sense and is irresponsible and unethical in many regards.”
Pacific Island students Flora and Vivienne (not their real names) argue that the decision is culturally inappropriate and unsafe, and is effectively excluding their society group.
“The Ask Me First campaign simply requests that in considering such changes, the safety and comfort of all students deserves equal consideration. These students were never asked their opinion. They are simply saying – ‘Please, Ask Me First’,” says Rachel McKenzie.
A recently released report which analysed over 200 peer-reviewed studies in the biological, psychological, and social sciences, concluded that the belief that gender identity is an innate, fixed human property independent of biological sex – so that a person might be a ‘man trapped in a woman’s body’ or ‘a woman trapped in a man’s body’ – is not supported by scientific evidence.
A legal opinion obtained in 2016 by Family First NZ and sent to all schools examined the Education Act, Bill of Rights Act, Human Rights Act and case law, and says that limiting access to toilets and changing rooms based on sex has long been considered appropriate given the need to provide a safe physical and emotional environment for all students.