Fight to restore Caster Semenya's 'human dignity and right to participate in sport' gains pace

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  • Chapter Nine institutions have joined hands to pursue injustice against Olympic gold medallist Caster Semenya.
  • They say it is more than an individual fight for Semenya, but for many other women athletes too.
  • Semenya recently lost her appeal bid against a 2019 CAS ruling, which prevents her from competing in 800m and 1500m events.

The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) and the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) met this week to chart the way forward with regard to the human rights violations against Olympic gold medallist Caster Semenya and other women athletes.

"The matter for these two Chapter Nine Institutions is more than an individual fight for Semenya, but one that affects Black women in developing countries," the CGE said in a statement on Thursday.

"It is about restoring her human dignity and rights to participate and have income from sport, as well as [the] rights of other athletes, who have also been discriminated and prejudiced by the new International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) discriminatory regulations that came to effect in 2019," it added.

READ| Caster determined to fight for human rights after latest setback

This comes after Semenya's attempt to return to the track was derailed after the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland refused to set aside a 2019 Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruling which stops Semenya from competing in 800m and 1500m events due to elevated testosterone levels, Sport24 reported.

In summary, the ruling means that Semenya would have to take medication or undergo a surgical procedure to lower those levels, the publication further reported.

The CGE and SAHRC said they were opposed to the IAAF's modification of its regulation to require female athletes to maintain testosterone levels below five nanomoles per litre for a continuous period of at least six months.

The two institutions' opposition was based on their strong conviction that the effects and impact of this new regulation would be detrimental and, therefore, amount to a severe violation of the rights of female athletes like Semenya, whose body produces what is considered by the IAAF "unnaturally high" levels of testosterone.

"The implementation of female eligibility regulations denies athletes with variations in sex characteristics an equal right to participate in sports and violates the right to non-discrimination more broadly," their statement further reads.

In addition, both institutions believed that Switzerland's Federal Supreme Court outcome amounted to a severe violation of the right to bodily integrity, human dignity and privacy of athletes like Semenya, whose bodies, through no fault of their own, produced what was considered high levels of testosterone.

"The CGE and SAHRC are therefore strongly determined to mount a global and national advocacy and support for women athletes like Caster Semenya and anyone else who falls foul of the IAAF's new regulation," the CGE added.

Both parties will be engaging with several stakeholders to ensure that the "discriminatory regulations by IAAF are thwarted as they do not conform with international human rights norms and standards".

"The two institutions will also jointly engage partners, key stakeholders and activists, government and private sector to join hands with the Commission for Gender Equality in the advocacy and defense of human rights of Caster Semenya and other women athletes in a similar position."

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