Women Department throws its weight behind Semenya

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Department of Women has lauded government’s efforts to support South Africa’s star athlete Caster Semenya through her legal challenge of the International Association of Athletics Federation’s ruling.

The department said it is appalled at the IAAF ruling, which expects certain athletes to reduce natural testosterone levels through artificial chemical processes.

The federation wants women athletes with a testosterone level above five nanomoles per litre to undergo hormone therapy to reduce their levels. Only then will they be eligible to take part in international competitions.

Minister in the Presidency Responsible for Women, Bathabile Dlamini, said the department has supported Semenya from the outset, constantly engaging the media on the IAAF’s colonial treatment of the female body.

She said that women bear the brunt of discrimination in society, through institutionalised patriarchy in schools, universities, places of worship, in the workplace, and in the home.

“Sexism also rears its head on the sports field where we are expected to accept pay disparities for male and female teams and the relegation of female sporting codes to second-tier events not worthy of coverage on television. The professionalism of women athletes also continues to be questioned because this goes against deeply ingrained ideas of the roles of women in society.

“Female athletes must constantly suffer emotional abuse through absorbing comments like ‘She runs like a man’. These preconceived notions of what the female body should look like or how female athletes should perform is deeply sexist, because it has infiltrated the entire structure of society,” Dlamini said.

Dlamini said the Global North constantly attempts to control the Global South, in particular the body of the African woman ‘to fit in with their own colonial ideas of the body as a site preserved for fertility’.

“We must remain resolute in our efforts to fight sexism, colonialism and xenophobia, irrespective of the form it takes,” Dlamini said, calling on all South Africans and global citizens to proclaim #HandsOffCaster.

South Africa’s 800-metre double Olympic champion Semenya is currently in Switzerland, where she is appealing a new set of regulations from the IAAF.

Semenya lodged an appeal against the new regulations, which were scheduled to come into effect in November 2018, delaying their implementation until the appeal has been resolved, which is expected on 26 March 2019.

The case is being heard behind closed doors at the Court of Arbitration for Sport until Friday.

Meanwhile, the South African government has launched the #NaturallySuperior campaign, which aims to rally behind golden girl Semenya.

Launched last week Friday, the campaign targets various eminent people, sectors of the local and global community as well as human rights organisations to join in condemning and opposing IAAF regulations. – SAnews.gov.za