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New guidelines also recommend a "X" category on official forms for survivors of an 'indeterminate' or 'unspecified' sex

A ustralia has taken an almighty - and somewhat controversial - step forward in gender equality by recommending that gender-neutral bathrooms, toilets and showers should be made available after natural disasters.

Guidelines drawn up by the Australian government say that gender-neutral bathrooms were important to help minimise the emotional after-effects of floods and other environmental catastrophes.

The Gender and Emergency Management Guidelines, a taxpayer-funded health booklet first developed in 2016, also state that authorities should consider amenities "beyond male and female". This includes a recommendation that official forms for natural disaster survivors include an "X" category for those of 'indeterminate' or 'unspecified' sex, the UK Daily Mail reports. "These guidelines are designed to address the needs of women, men, and everyone of diverse gender and sexual identities, including LGBTI people, and to minimise the negative impact of gender stereotypes on all members of the community," the recommendations said.

The guidelines, developed by Monash University, also say recommend gender-neutral instructions about how to prepare for an emergency. "Employ professional support to update household guides for emergency preparedness with a gender lens to ensure the different needs of women, men, and everyone of diverse gender and sexual identities, including LGBTI people, are covered in preparing for an emergency," it said.

B ut the guidelines - a first, I believe - have drawn criticism for allegedly pandering to hard-left lobby groups. Dr Jeremy Sammut, of The Centre for Independent Studies, a centre-right think tank, said: "It's a weird priority to have for emergency services dedicated to protecting life and limb of everyone regardless of their identity.

"At some point in society, we need to focus on what we have in common rather than the constant drive to divide us by sensitising everybody to these issues in a way that is fundamentally divisive and basically unhelpful to the core purpose of what emergency services should be doing."

Dr Sammut added: "The best way to deal with these things is to promote the old-fashioned belief you treat everybody in a respectful fashion in a way you would want to be treated yourself. "I don't think we need to have gender-sensitivity training. It's a matter of trusting in the basic decency of people to do the right thing."