Three United Nations human rights experts have written a joint letter to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) highlighting concerns about "sexist regulations" that discriminate against women with intersex variations and obstruct certain athletes from competing.
The regulations deny these women the right to participate in the female category of running events between 400 meters and a mile unless they submit to invasive testing and medically unnecessary “treatment.”
According to the IAAF “the new regulations require any athlete who has a Difference of Sexual Development (DSD), meaning her levels of circulating testosterone (in serum) are five (5) nmol/L, or above, and who is androgen-sensitive, meet the following criteria to be eligible to compete in restricted events in an international competition (or set a world record in a restricted event at competition that is not an international competition):
“(a) she must be recognized by law either as female or as intersex (or equivalent);
“(b) she must reduce her blood testosterone level to below five (5) nmol/L for a continuous period of at least six months (by use of hormonal contraceptives); and
“(c) thereafter she must maintain her blood testosterone level below five (5) nmol/L continuously (whether competing not) for so long as she wishes to remain eligible.”
The IAAF council approved the regulations in March and they are expected to come into effect from Nov. 1, 2018, and replacing the previous Regulations Governing Eligibility of Females with Hyperandrogenism to Compete in Women's Competition, which no longer applies in the sport.
The experts on health, torture, and women’s rights wrote, “The regulations reinforce negative stereotypes and stigma that women in the targeted category are not women – and that they need to be “fixed” through medically unnecessary treatment with negative health impacts.
“Women who do not conform to culturally constructed notions of womanhood are particularly at risk of discrimination, violence, and criminalization. By singling out a certain group of athletes and denying them membership in the ‘female’ category, the IAAF puts these women at risk of repercussions far beyond the inability to compete.”
South African Olympic sprinting champion Caster Semenya, 27, has been challenging the regulations in court for being discriminatory, irrational, and unjustifiable. The letter from the U.N. experts provided her a support system.
In 2011, the IAAF issued similar regulations which were challenged by the Indian runner Dutee Chand at the Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS), leading to a 2014 judgment that the 2011 regulations did “discriminate against women and discriminate based on a natural physical trait.”