Minister writes to UN to investigate Semenya saga

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pretoria - The Ministry for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities has written a letter to the United Nations requesting it to investigate the manner in which Caster Semenya has been treated.

Caster has been run down in the media after the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) conducted gender tests on her during the World Athletics Championships.

In the letter, Minister Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya says there has been a blatant disregard for Caster's human dignity.

The minister addressed the letter to Director Carolyn Hannan at the UN's Division for the Advancement of Women. This division is responsible for the implementation of various international agreements and declarations relating to the status of women.

Mayende-Sibiya said the incident violated at least three international commitments governed by the UN on protection and promotion of the rights of women.

"The incident undermines Article 13 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, this article requires that measures be put in place to eliminate discrimination and promote the rights of women to participate in sports.

"Secondly, her treatment violates the Beijing Platform for Action. The Platform for Action calls for gender-sensitive programmes for girls and women of all ages and support in all areas of athletics including coaching and administration at the national, regional and international levels.

"Lastly, the incident contradicts the Brighton Declaration of 1994 which called for a sporting culture that values and enables the full involvement of women in every aspect of sport," Mayende-Sibiya said in the letter.

She explained that she had requested the UN to investigate as the incident had severe consequences for women participation in sports globally.

The minister further said that there should have been a degree of transparency from the IAAF about the sequence of events that led to Caster's gender being subjected to such "unjustified public scrutiny".

"The questioning of her gender is based on stereotypic view of the physical features and abilities attributable to women," she said.

She added that such stereotypes demonstrate the extent of patriarchy within the world's sporting community," said Mayende-Sibiya.