Britain’s House of Commons could have transgender toilets in the near future, despite the fact there isn’t a single transgendered Member of Parliament (MP) or staff.
Conservative Speaker of the House John Bercow has hired a professor of gender and sociology and distributed an internal paper setting out an agenda for a “gender-sensitive parliament”.
The paper warns the House of Commons is a “masculinised institution” which is reflected in its “artwork, dress code” and “exclusionary language,” and proposes that the use of gender quotas for selecting committee members be considered.
The new facilities would being Parliament into line with the Whitehouse, which adopted “gender neutral” rooms in July. Other radical proposals in the paper include allowing MPs to breast feed during debates, making historical ceremonial dress more comfortable for women and adopting more artwork featuring women and pastel scenes, instead of war scenes.
Sarah Childs, a professor of “gender and politics” at the University of Bristol’s sociology department, will spend months interviewing staff and MPs before making her recommendations for change, the Sunday Times reports.
Her research “centres on the relationships between sex, gender and politics. It is concerned, both theoretically and empirically, with questions of women’s descriptive, symbolic and substantive representation.”
— Cristina L-B (@estrangeirada) November 2, 2015
From her Twitter feed it is clear Ms. Child favours Canadian-style gender quotas in government, which would constitute a form of positive discrimination.
An advisory board chaired by Mr Bercow will oversee the project, and the final changes are expected to form part of a multi million pound modernisation and refurbishment of parliament.
Formal maternity and paternity leave will also be considered, and the possibility of allowing MPs to vote electronically so they can stay at home with children.
Ms. Childs, who tweeted her support for the Labour MP Jess Phillips after she laughed out loud at the idea of debating high rates of male suicide, said:
“In developing a set of gender sensitive reforms, I will be examining what might need to change . . . This means addressing family-unfriendly rules . . . and behaviour that marginalises women and identifying the means by which women and men are able to participate equally throughout the institution.”
Adding: “The people who work for MPs are mostly young men called Will, Tim or Ben.” Ms. Child didn’t give her interpretation of why this is, but Westminster insiders have a good idea.