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In the 2009 Berlin World Championships Madeleine Pape, an Australian Olympic runner competed and lost in South Africa’s Caster Semenya. These championships are now infamous as Semenya won the gold and because the athletic authorities openly suggested she was given an unfair anatomical advantage, breaking her privacy. All too well known is Semenya’s humiliating ordeal. For decades, sports authorities have limited the involvement of women in sport via “sex tests,” which target women athletes who have greater than usual natural testosterone levels due to their gender variances. The regulations refuse to allow these ladies to participate as women in races that go from 400 m to 1,000 m unless invasive tests and medically unwarranted treatments are taken.
This is explained in detail in a new Human RightsWatch research – how the rules of sex testing including the existing test iteration, damage women’s athletes on and off the path. Equality for women in sport is a continuing undertaking, and pay equity and sexual assault initiatives are gaining steam. However the exclusion of some women from the larger objective, because of sexist and racist stereotypes. Even sportsmen are being put in the same box, only now that women’s sportsmen are critiqued not only for the size of their bodies but because of choice of costume they are poked and stirred by the media. As a punitive tool and as a means of control, in the Foucaultian sense, the sport has used dress code, as well as for material reasons sexualizing bodies. Serena Williams and others were punished with the suspension from the French Open in 2018 after they donned a cat-suit because it was allegedly disregarding the game and its position. Disrespect of female sportsmen does not cease ex-post decisions on the other hand but also states the enthusiasm of police forces.
The time has come that these outdated rules and regulations should be discarded completely and we should pave a way for gender equality in sports.