Administration of Occupational Safety and Health Demands City Re-Gender Bathrooms - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Administration of Occupational Safety and Health Demands City Re-Gender Bathrooms

Published November 20, 2019

Andie Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

A city ordinance past last summer, whereby all bathrooms in municipal buildings were made gender neutral, has been challenged by the Administration of Occupational Safety and Health in Iceland (AOSH), Vísir reports, citing an existing AOSH regulation. Councilpersons who worked to pass the gender neutral bathroom measure have expressed confusion at AOSH’s decision—not least of all for being on the committee who created the new legislation without pointing out any existing contradictions to other regulations.

The push for gender neutral bathrooms goes back several years, with the primary motivation being greater gender equality by being more inclusive of nonbinary people; those who do not ascribe to either female or male. Numerous workplaces and schools have already adopted the policy, including Akurskóli primary school and the secondary school Verzlunarskóla Íslands.

Despite this, AOSH—a national government institution—cites existing regulations on workplace spaces, which amongst other things demands that workplaces which have more than five men and more than five women have bathrooms for both of those genders.

Dóra Björt Guðjónsdóttir, the chair of Reykjavík City Council’s Human Rights and Democracy Committee, told RÚV that not only did the city put a great deal of preparation into the gender neutral bathroom regulation, but an AOSH representative visited the committee last March specifically for discussions about making the city’s bathrooms gender neutral. In the notes for that meeting, the representative in question—Björn Þór Rögnvaldsson—is specifically thanked for “the announcement that the City of Reykjavík is granted permission to make their bathrooms gender neutral”.

Pirate Party councilperson Alexandra Briem, who has long fought for the rights of Iceland’s queer community, also added her thoughts on the matter, saying, “I find this [AOSH] regulation obsolete and old fashioned. It’s an old law designed to ensure enough bathrooms for two genders. Human gender is more diverse than just men and women.”

In point of fact, Iceland’s gender determination law does recognise nonbinary people, raising legitimate concerns over whether AOSH’s regulations might not be in harmony with Icelandic law. Further, Dóra points out that the regulation only specifies that there be enough bathrooms for “both genders”; a condition she believes the city fulfills.

As it is now, the City of Reykjavík has sent a letter of objection to AOSH on the matter, as Dóra does not believe AOSH has sufficiently proven that regulations have been broken.

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