Tories launch official ‘probe’ into sanitary products in men’s toilets at government office

Thérèse Coffey.

Environment secretary Thérèse Coffey has ordered an investigation into the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) providing free sanitary products in men’s toilets in a move slammed as an attempt to stir “animosity” towards trans people.

Coffey ordered the official the probe after a Freedom of Information (FOI) request revealed the details of sanitary products being regularly replenished in male and female toilets, understood to be for trans employees.

Defra confirmed that it supplies free period products “to all those in need”, including trans and non-binary civil servants who may use the men’s toilets. 

A spokesperson for the department told PinkNews: “Since earlier this year, we have offered free period products for those in need across the whole Defra estate.” 

Defra has offices across the UK, with main locations in Birmingham, Bristol, London, Newcastle, Reading and York.

The spokesperson said that in its London office, which it shares with the Home Office and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, free period products are placed only in the women-only and gender-neutral bathrooms.

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‘Compassionate gesture that hurts nobody’

A spokesperson for trans chairty, Gendered Intellgence, told PinkNews that Coffey’s call for investigation is the latest bid to “stir up animosity towards the trans community”.

“DEFRA employs over 10,000 people, which will include trans men who use the men’s toilets and still need sanitary products. Including sanitary products in all toilets is a simple, compassionate gesture that hurts nobody and really helps the people who need it.

“The environment secretary’s call for an investigation is nothing but an attempt to make trans civil servants unwelcome and stir up animosity towards the trans community.”

The FOI also revealed that the department has 208 gender-neutral toilets, 109 unisex and 99 accessible toilets, across its offices. 

In 2022, Scotland become the first country in the world to protect the right to free menstrual products for all who need them. The act, written using gender-neutral language, states that it “applies to transgender and non-binary people who menstruate, and not just to women and girls”.

People on social media have flagged the bizarre nature of Coffey’s investigation at a time when issues such as climate change and the cost-of-living crisis should be of greater importance to the government.

One person stated on Twitter that if the sanitary products are being replenished, then they must be being used. 

Coffey, who holds a right-wing record littered with strong anti-abortion views and a history of repeatedly voting against LGBTQ+ rights, including same-sex marriage, was urged to take monkeypox and LGBTQ+ healthcare seriously in 2022, when the outbreak first began.

Health professionals called for urgent action on monkeypox, but all calls for help were ignored. Coffey was later accused of “jeopardising public health” after she decided not to secure extra vaccines despite advice from officials.

PinkNews has contacted Thérèse Coffey’s office for comment.