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Controversial Paris public urinal vandalised

Thomas Samson, AFP | A man stands at a public urinal on August 13, 2018, on Paris's Île Saint-Louis.

A public urinal installed on the posh banks of the Île Saint-Louis in Paris has been vandalised and stuffed with feminine hygiene products. Police suspect feminist protest group Femen. The group denies any involvement.


The urinal is on the Île Saint-Louis, one of the heavily trafficked islands in the Seine. Police suspect Femen because a raised fist, the symbol of the movement, was drawn on the sidewalk.

But the group denies involvement: “We are not responsible for this act. The symbol of a raised fist isn’t unique to Femen. We always claim our acts.”

The urinal was blocked with cement and tampons. “An appropriate d*** is a covered d***”, read a sticker, according to Le Parisien.

“Women who expose their breasts to breastfeed are told to cover up. Meanwhile, the city subsidises men who take out their genitals to urinate,” read another.

The red eco-friendly flush-free urinals look like large red boxes. Stuffed with straw and topped with a plant, they are meant to double as odourless compost-producers, but they offer little to no privacy.

Parisians peeved by public urinals

It’s not just the public nature of the urinals that has drawn criticism. Many have called them flagrantly sexist.

Fear of drug trafficking and prostitution has driven down the number of public toilets in Paris in recent years to about 400. As the number of men urinating in the streets rose, the public urinals seemed like an easy solution.

“They have been installed on a sexist proposition: men cannot control themselves (from the bladder point of view) and so all of society has to adapt,” said Gwendoline Coipeault of French feminist group Femmes Solidaires told Reuters. “The public space must be transformed to cause them minimum discomfort.”

“It’s absurd, no one needs to urinate in the street.”

The company that designed the urinals disagrees. “For reasons of privacy, women need to be in a cabin, so the aim is to free up existing toilets for them,” the company told AFP.

The urinals were initially installed this spring in places where public urination is a problem, like Gare de Lyon train station and Place de Clichy. The most recent two to be installed were at Gare du Nord station and on the Île Saint-Louis.

It is this latest addition on Île Saint-Louis that has drawn the most criticism. It sits on the edge of the river, overlooking passing tourist boats and ferries. The island’s residents have started a petition calling for its removal.

Proponents of the urinals on the other hand say that the urinals were conceived of for use by nighttime revelers. They argue that in the dark, the risk of public exposure is limited.


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