Men should sit down to urinate in the toilet instead of standing up because it helps maintain a cleaner environment, says a Taiwanese government minister.

Stephen Shen is Taiwan’s minister for Environmental Protection Administration (EPA). He has stirred up a widespread debate on whether men should sit down on the toilet to urinate, like women do.

Shen himself maintains he does, both at home and in public toilets.

The EPA carries out regular inspections of Taiwan’s 100,000 or so public toilets and suggests while many of them are very clean, there is room for improvement. Standing up to urinate causes urine splatter which creates a bad smell, say EPA officials.

Local governments in Taiwan are being advised in the next few days to place public notices asking men to sit when urinating.

Cindy Sui, of BBC News, Taipei, says the announcement has stirred a lot of online debate. Although social media activity suggests women think it is a good idea, the men are likely to find it hard to change their ways.

Yuan Shaw-jing, director general of environmental santitation and toxic substance maintenance at Taiwan’s EPA, says they want to learn from other countries like Japan and Sweden where it is not unusual for men to take a seat while urinating.

“In Japan, we heard 30% of the men sit,” he said, according to a BBC report.

In June this year, the Left Party in Sweden’s south east province of Sörmland put forward a proposal seeking to encourage men to urinate sitting down when using the toilets at the county council’s offices.

The party said one reason for the proposal was to improve hygiene and ensure men who use the male toilets at the council premises don’t have to walk through puddles made by urine splashing out of the bowl onto the floor.

They also said another reason was medical research shows men empty their bladders more efficiently if they sit down to pee rather than stand. This reduces risk for prostate problems, and also improves and prolongs men’s sex lives, according to a report in the local Folket newspaper.

Viggo Hansen of the Left Party said they weren’t trying to interfere with people’s personal bathroom habits:

“We want to give men the option of going into a clean toilet,” he told Sveriges Television (SVT).

There was also a suggestion that Hansen, who put forward the proposal, wants the council eventually to adopt a genderless toilet policy, and a sit-down only requirement is a first step in that direction.

Written by Catharine Paddock PhD