The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) and the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) are planning to embark on a global and national advocacy to fight against the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) discriminatory regulations.

This comes after Caster Mokgadi Semenya recently lost her appeal to Switzerland’s Federal Supreme Court against the restriction of testosterone levels in female runners.

“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.

“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 IAAF discriminatory regulations that came to effect in 2019,” read a statement released on Thursday, September 17.

After Semenya lost her appeal, the two institutions met on Tuesday (September 15) to chart the way forward on the issue of gross human rights violations.

The CGE and SAHRC are still 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, particularly in individuals with Differences of Sex Development (DSD).

“The two institutions’ opposition is based on their strong conviction that the effects and impact of this new regulation will be detrimental and therefore amount to a severe violation of the rights of female athletes like Caster Semenya, whose body produces what is considered by the IAAF ‘unnaturally high’ levels of testosterone,” the statement said.

The CGE and SAHRC said 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.

“Other current approaches to regulating female eligibility may have a negative impact on athletes’ enjoyment of their human rights and may amount to violations of the right to freedom from torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.

“Both institutions believe the outcome at Switzerland’s Federal Supreme Court amounts to a severe violation of the right to bodily integrity, human dignity and privacy of athletes like Caster Semenya, whose bodies, through no fault of their own, produce what is considered high levels of testosterone,” the statement said.

Mzansi institutions to appeal for international help

The CGE and SAHRC said they are determined to mount a global and national advocacy and support for women athletes like Caster Semenya and anyone else who falls foul of the new IAAF’s regulation.

The two institutions will jointly engage President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as the Chairperson of the African Union; the Ministries of Women, Youth and persons with Disabilities and Sports, Arts and Culture; the National Assembly, through Portfolio Committees of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities and Sports, Arts, and Culture, and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.

This petition will not be limited to South Africa and Africa but also the United Nations.

“International human rights norms and standards place obligations on States to prevent and provide redress for discrimination.

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

What are Chapter 9 Institutions?

Chapter Nine Institutions refer to a group of organisations established in terms of Chapter 9 of the South African Constitution to guard democracy. These organizations are the Public Protector (PP), the Auditor‐General (AG), the Electoral Commission (IEC), the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), and lastly, the Commission for the Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities.

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