Govt seeks legal action to protect Semenya

Friday, September 11, 2009
By: 
Nthambeleni Gabara

Pretoria - Government is seeking legal counsel to stop the continued violation of Caster Semenya's rights in the media.

"We've referred the matter to our lawyers to see how best her rights and interests can be protected," said Sport and Recreation Minister, Makhenkesi Stofile on Friday.

Talks have already been initiated with the department's legal counsel to advise them on how best to protect the 800m world champion's rights and privacy.

Stofile had been "shocked" and "disgusted" by media reports about the 18-year-old from Limpopo, which have claimed that she is an hermaphrodite.

Since qualifying for, and later winning her race at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin last month, there has been a media furore over the International Association of Athletics Federation's (IAAF) decision to conduct gender tests on her.

"We strongly believe that our government and all well-meaning citizens should protect Semenya, her rights and her interests. She needs a lot of professional assistance and advice," said the minister

He said that what was disconcerting was the pattern of the media breaking the story, "while those close to the matter are pleading ignorance".

"It is clear that Caster's human rights are not respected at all. The humiliation she and her family suffered is still continuing. We are even seeing the greed factor starting to outstrip genuine concerns for her rights and her future well-being."

He said neither Caster, nor her family deserved the humiliation. "None of them has done anything wrong. And we appeal that they be left alone."

Stofile expressed disappointment at how the matter was being handled "by those with devious vested interest, especially after being promised a meeting with the IAAF".

While Caster's gender is no longer in doubt, the minister said the issue had become about percentages. "This is as disgusting as it is unethical."

He further questioned the IAAF, who had subjected her to gender tests without seeking advice from her parents. He has written a letter to the body asking them why the test was necessary and what they were looking for in the results.

The IAAF has not yet responded. Efforts to get the body to apologise to Caster, the family and South Africa for the continued media leaks have also proved fruitless.

While it has agreed to meet with the Minister, President Jacob Zuma and Athletics South Africa in the first week of October, this has not yet been confirmed.

Regarding whether Caster would be stripped of her 800m champion title if she is proved not to be a complete female, the minister said that they would challenge it at the highest level. "It will be a third world war," he said.

Most Read

SA News on Facebook