Govt goes to UN over Semenya

2009-09-14 10:54

Johannesburg - The government has written to the United Nations to investigate whether athlete Caster Semenya has been treated in line with its protocols on gender and equality, a statement said on Monday.

The letter, by Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya, Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, to the UN's Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), argues that there has been a blatant disregard for Semenya's human dignity.

The 18-year-old sports science student is embroiled in a controversy over her gender since winning a gold medal for the 800m in the International Association of Athletics Federations' (IAAF) Berlin meeting last month.

Last week an Australian newspaper claimed that IAAF tests showed that her body contained both male and female organs.

Three violations

The IAAF has not commented on this, but in the meantime Mayende-Sibiya believes the matter violates at least three international commitments governed by the UN on protection and promotion of rights of women.

She argues that it undermines article 13 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women which requires that measures be put in place to eliminate discrimination and promote the rights of women to participate in sports.

It violates the Beijing Platform for Action which calls for gender-sensitive programmes for girls and women of all ages and support in all areas of athletics including coaching and administration at the national, regional and international levels.

It also contradicts the Brighton Declaration of 1994 which called for a sporting culture that values and enables the full involvement of women in every aspect of sport.

"The equal opportunity to be involved in sport for leisure or for competition, is the right of all women and men, girls and boys.

Call for UN to investigate

"I would therefore like to request that the UN Division for Advancement of Women investigates this matter as it has severe consequences for women participation in sports globally," she wrote in her letter to DAW director Carolyn Hannan.

"There should be some degree of transparency from the IAAF about the sequence of events that led to Miss Semenya's gender being subjected to such unjustified public scrutiny," Minister Mayende-Sibiya states in her letter.

She argued that in terms of South Africa law governing the population register, Semenya is a woman.

"The questioning of her gender is based on [a] stereotypic view of the physical features and abilities attributable to women. Such stereotypes demonstrate the extent of patriarchy within the world's sporting community," she said.