La France Insoumise have presented a bill to the National Assembly aimed at "guaranteeing equal and free access to toilets for all".
The left-wing political party said that free access to clean toilets should be a right, highlighting in particular railway stations that charge for such access.
In France, paid toilets tend to range from 50 centimes to €2 depending where they are located – in some train stations you can even get a loyalty card covering 12 entries for €9.80.
LFI MP for Haute-Garonne François Piquemal said “it is estimated that of the 36,000 municipalities in France, almost three-quarters do not have public toilets.”
He wants a minimum ratio of one free public toilet per 2,500 inhabitants.
Garantir à tous un accès égal et gratuit aux toilettes— François Piquemal (@FraPiquemal) November 15, 2023
Présentation en conférence de presse avec @MathildeHignet de notre proposition de loi « toilettes publiques » pour garantir à toutes et tous un accès égal et gratuit aux toilettes. pic.twitter.com/z6nJicNDc6
Some major French cities are far from meeting this target. "There are 18 toilets in Marseille for almost 900,000 inhabitants, that is one toilet for every 48,000 inhabitants," LFI said, citing a report by the Water Academy from May 2020.
According to the same source, in Nice, Lille, Strasbourg, Toulon and Reims, the average is one toilet for every 5,300 inhabitants.
Mr Piquemal also proposed that public buildings would not be able to “impose any requirement to pay on people wishing to use the toilets".
While no date has been given for the review of this proposal, Mr Piquemal indicated that the priority at this stage was to highlight the issue.
Arguments for the proposal
One of the main reasons for reform is to provide for those affected by certain chronic illnesses such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis which require regular toilet visits.
From a public health aspect, there is an increased likelihood that people will use the street if they are unable to access facilities at no cost.
Opposition to the idea
It is argued that even if public toilets were free some would be reluctant to use them as there is a general perception that the toilets are not properly cleaned.
This perception could be enhanced if no fee was payable as there would be less finance available to pay for cleaning.