Open-air urinals in flower boxes deployed to combat the problem of men using the streets of Paris as a bathroom have set off a row with critics who call them ugly, immodest — and sexist.
Dubbed uritrottoirs, the bright red eco-friendly urinals contain a layer of straw to soak up unpleasant odors, Paris officials say, according to CNN.
The urinals don’t use water but the straw can be composted, reported The Local. The city has set up four in places where public urination remains a problem, with a fifth in the works.
One, along the River Seine near the Notre Dame cathedral, has critics particularly incensed, reported Reuters.
“There’s no need to put something so immodest and ugly in such an historic spot,” art store owner Paola Pellizzari, 68, told the news service. She said the urinal “incites exhibitionism.”
Others, who declined to be named, called the urinals “weird,” “unacceptable” and “not very attractive,” reported the Local
Aesthetics aside, some object to the urinals on grounds of sexism.
“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,” Gwendoline Coipeault of the feminist group Femmes Solidaires, told Reuters. “It’s absurd, no one needs to urinate in the street.”
But Faltazi, the company that designed the urinals, said in a statement to The Local that they’re actually intended to benefit women in need of restrooms.
“For reasons of privacy, women need to be in a cabin, so the aim is to free up existing toilets for them,” the company wrote.
Ariel Weil, mayor of the fourth district of Paris, where the urinals have been deployed, told Reuters they’re needed.
“If we don’t do anything, then men are just going to pee in the streets,” he said. “If it is really bothering people, we will find another location.”
In a post to Twitter, Weil called the open-air urinals “an invention of genius,” reported CNN.
Amsterdam and cities in Belgium and Australia also have experimented with open-air urinals, according to the network.
In San Francisco, city officials installed an open-air urinal at Mission Dolores Park in 2016, according to The Associated Press.
The urinal, partly screened by plants and a screen, prompted immediate complaints and a lawsuit by the San Francisco Chinese Christian Union, which a judge later struck down, reported The San Francisco Chronicle.