UN’s Human Rights Council backs Caster Semenya

A resolution adopted by the council is aimed at eliminating discrimination against women and girls in sport, giving significant global weight from a human rights perspective to Caster Semenya’s case.

FILE: Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - The Human Rights Council of the United Nations has adopted a resolution tabled by South Africa to defend double Olympic champion Caster Semenya’s rights to participate in sport.

A resolution adopted by the council is aimed at eliminating discrimination against women and girls in sport, giving significant global weight from a human rights perspective to Semenya’s case.

Semenya is challenging proposals by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) that aim to restrict female athletes’ testosterone levels.

In a statement released by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, South Africa presented the resolution and said it was grateful to all members of the council and to civil society for rallying behind the resolution, which was co-sponsored by Eswatini, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Burundi, India, Iceland and Canada.

“The international community has a duty to protect and defend the rights of Caster Semenya and other female athletes like her across the world, based on the premise that their human rights are being violated. The international campaign to preserve Caster’s right to participate in global sports, is a struggle for all women in the world against discrimination, sexism, and patriarchy,” said Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu.

This is the first time that the human rights system holds international sports associations to account for their obligations under international human rights law.

On Thursday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport said that it was delaying until next month its ruling on the challenge filed by Semenya against the IAAF.

A decision in the controversial case had been due next week, but the world’s top sports court said it would not issue a verdict “until the end of April” because both sides had filed additional material since the hearing in February.

Semenya is challenging proposals by the International Association of Athletics Federations that aim to restrict female athletes’ testosterone levels.

The IAAF is seeking to force so-called “hyperandrogenic” athletes or those with “differences of sexual development” (DSD) to seek treatment to lower their testosterone levels below a prescribed amount if they wish to continue competing as women.

The athletics governing body has argued the moves are necessary to create a “level playing field” for other female athletes.

Additional reporting by AFP.