Women have to stand in line longer to access a public toilet partly because they may take longer, but also because there are simply not enough loos and sanitary facilities in Hong Kong for women, according to a new report by the Audit Commission.
The report, released on Wednesday, detailed a range of areas in which the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) - which managed 798 public toilets with flushing systems as of June this year - had not met government guidelines.
This included failing to ensure that for every one public toilet compartment for men, there should be two for women. The commission's assessment of 421 public toilets found the ratio to be one to 1.3 instead.
"The department should take measures to meet the male-to-female toilet compartment ratio as far as practicable," the commission recommended in its 95-page report.
The commission found that of the 23 public toilets built in the last three years, 16 did not have adequate sanitary fitments for women - something which the FEHD said was due to "site constraints for expansion".
But in the commission's view, the FEHD should have consulted the Architectural Services Department in planning for toilet facilities.
Apart from concerns about the shortfall in women's toilets, the report found that 138 public toilets - about two in 10 of the city's public toilets - had not undergone any maintenance work in the past decade. These included 29 with high utilisation rates.
The FEHD also showed delays in repairing defects, including 150 cases defined as "minor repairs" that should have been addressed within 24 hours, but were still not fixed when the commission returned at a later date.
The commission also took aim at the time taken for toilets under a refurbishment programme to be completed, with works for 44 public toilets stretching on for about four to eight years.
In Yuen Long, one public toilet took seven years to be upgraded due to issues over design, land acquisition and concerns raised from local consultations, the report found.
The report also recommended the FEHD take steps to address concerns by lawmakers that there were insufficient public toilets at some tourist hotspots.
The FEHD said there was a lack of toilets at places frequented by tourists because such facilities were "not popular with" locals and thus they did not feel a need to support such projects.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.