Athletics

SA psychiatrists' body: Semenya's human rights violated

Caster Semenya (AP)
Caster Semenya (AP)

Cape Town - The International Association of Athletics Federation's (IAAF) proposed rule at the end of this month on testosterone limits for female athletes is medically unethical, a violation of human rights, and fails to recognise the evidence for natural variations in human gender, says South Africa’s professional body for psychiatry. 

In a statement, the South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP) said gender verification technologies had revealed "a broad diversity of anatomical, genetic, and hormonal conditions that go beyond binary gender as applied in sport and make eligibility rulings based on anatomical or chromosomally assigned sex impossible". 

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is expected to rule at the end of this month on double Olympic gold medallist Caster Semenya’s challenge to the IAAF's rule change to force suppression of hyperandrogenic female athletes' naturally high testosterone levels in order to be allowed to compete. 

SASOP spokesperson Dr Anusha Lachman believes that the IAAF stance has contributed to discrimination and stigma attached to naturally occurring differences in gender and sexual identity, sexual development and orientation. 

"Such discrimination deprives people with differences in sexual development (DSD) of their basic human rights, limiting them in achieving personal, social and occupational fulfilment, and can lead to their marginalisation from society," said Lachman.

"The IAAF rule is being imposed on questionable grounds of 'health' and has no basis in scientific fact. Forcing athletes to medically alter naturally occurring hormones ignores the potential negative consequences on their physical and mental health, and is an invasion of their privacy and right to dignity." 

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