Minister of Sport & Recreation Ms Tokozile Xasa (MP) speaks on the campaign against the discriminatory International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Hyperandrogenism regulations.
SPORT AND RECREATION
REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA
Private Bag X869, Pretoria, 0001, Tel: (012) 304 5000, Fax: (012) 323 8426
Private Bag X9149, Cape Town, 8000, Tel: (021) 465 5506/7/8/9, Fax: (021) 465 4402
MINISTER OF SPORT & RECREATION Ms TOKOZILE XASA (MP) SPEAKS ON THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE DISCRIMINATORY INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF ATHLETICS FEDERATIONS (IAAF) HYPERANDROGENISM REGULATIONS. JOHANNESBURG, GAUTENG.
Thursday, 28 FEBRUARY 2019
Members of Parliament
President of Athletics South Africa and Leaders of Federations
Fellow South Africans
Inspired by the words of the first President of the Democratic South Africa, Tata Mandela when he said, “Sport have the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sports can create hope, where there was once despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination. Sport is the game of lovers.”
Further quoting the words of a leading female swimming American coach, Teri McKeever who said:
“I think sports gave me the first place where this awkward girl could feel comfortable in my own skin. I think that’s true for a lot women – sports gives you a part of your life where you can work at something and you look in the mirror and you like that person”
In many ways these words resonates well with the injustice we are starring its face. Indeed sports should and is about bringing hope, it’s about breaking barriers and promoting the bonds of friendship. Sport should be about inclusion and fairness. It should not be about discrimination and injustice we see in Athletics today targeting certain female athletes.
As the people of South Africa today are aware, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has re-introduced regulations that seek to prevent athletes with hyperandrogenism to participate in the female athletics categories. Their intention is to force these athletes to take medication, to reduce the levels of testosterone in their bodies or be forced to compete with men.
The South African government is opposed to these regulations as they seek to punish athletes who are endowed with physical traits, attributes and abilities, naturally, and subject them to medical procedures that seek to alter who they are. We believe that this is tantamount to modernising barbarism and is indeed an attempt at civilising cruelty as well as making discriminatory practices acceptable in a world that should be steeped in a human rights culture.
Based on this, we are firmly opposed to these new regulations of the IAAF. We had lent support to the case of Ms. Mokgadi Caster Semenya, our own citizen and our people’s ‘Golden Girl’. We have also supported Athletics South Africa (ASA) to stand up to the might of the IAAF. Government had appointed a High Level Panel to coordinate our response to these regulations and the work was divided into three work streams, namely, the medical, the legal and the social mobilisation. Subsequently, we had subsequently presented our case to the Court for Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland in the past week (18 – 22 February 2019). We are cautiously optimistic that we have mounted and presented a formidable challenge to these discriminatory regulations. As a nation we remain indebted to both the Legal and Medical team that worked tirelessly to ensure we have a winnable case. These are patriots of our country that must be celebrated.
To us, in the sports and human-rights communities, the case is not only about the human rights of our Golden Girl - Caster Semenya, also about that of many other young athletes who might not have a voice. Caster Semenya herself attests to this reality when she aptly put it to the world that:
“It’s not about me anymore. It’s about the African girls who come from the rural areas who do not believe that they can do this…”
We couldn’t agree more with her. Our analysis indicates that these regulations are targeted at the sub-codes of athletics in which African athletes participate and are dominant in. These includes applicability to the 400m to mile (including 400m hurdles races), 800m and 1500m. We do not believe that it is a coincidence that these are the races Caster Semenya participate and generally dominates. We actually believe that the regulations were designed to exclude her from participation and formulated purposefully to be this discriminatory against her. Left unopposed and unattended, they have the potential to deprive the world from seeing and experiencing the full participation of future athletes to come from our African soils.
This outlook is also shared by American Tennis great, Ms. Serena Williams when she says:
“Think of all the girls who could become top athletes but quit sports because they’re afraid of having too many defined muscles and being made fun of or called unattractive.”
Owing to this injustice, the South African Government launched a social mobilisation and international solidarity campaign aptly entitled #NaturallySuperior to oppose the regulations and to drum up support for the athletes that will be affected by these regulations. The campaign sought to highlight the injustice these regulations will visit upon athletes such as Caster Semenya and also sought to educate the public on the key issues around the case.
The campaign was positively responded to overwhelmingly by the public, and it called for action in the public participating by signing an online petition on the matter and in sending messages of support to Caster as well as messages of opposition to the IAAF regulations. People, organisations, corporates, media from all persuasions of life, embraced the call and celebrated the natural superiority of Caster and the physical traits, attributes and abilities that God has endowed upon her.
On the international front, the campaign also received significant support. Athletes of note, both current and former came out in support of Caster Semenya and also in opposition of the regulations. Amongst them is former Tennis player, Martina Navratilova, NBA Basketball player Le Bron James, the Tennis great Billie Jean King. King’s words summarises, the core of our case and opposition to the regulation when she said:
“My friend Caster Semenya is unequivocally female. Forcing women with naturally high testosterone to give up ownership of their bodies and take drugs to compete in sport is barbaric, dangerous, and discriminatory.”
Accordingly, what is at stake here is far more than the right to participate in a sport. Women’s bodies, their wellbeing, their ability to earn a livelihood, their very identity, their privacy and sense of safety and belonging in the world, are being questioned. This is a gross violation of internationally accepted standards of human rights law.
It is for this reason that the Special Rapporteurs and the Working Group who are part of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council (with special procedures being the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system) having written to the President of the IAAF questioning the regulations and the accompanying potential human rights violations. In the same breadth, the Women’s Sport Foundation has also characterised these proposed regulations as:
“…exacerbating discrimination against women in sport who are perceived as not prescribing to normative ideas about femininity…”
We therefore call upon all members of this house to be on the right side of history. We urge all of us as representatives of the people of South Africa to openly declare to the whole world to know that
“WE ARE CASTER AND CASTER IS US.”
We urge all political parties to endorse the campaign #NaturallySuperior, and to continue to lobby the world to stand firm against these regulations. It is expected that the CAS will give its ruling at the end of March 2019 or soon thereafter. We should seek to ensure that the South African voice is clearly heard until this ruling is made and our call to the rest of humanity to take a stand against discriminatory practices and subtle racism, wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head.
As we continue with this campaign, we further invoke the words of Pierre de Coubertin the founder of the International Olympic Committee, and its second President when he said,
“Olympism is not a system, it’s a state of mind. The most widely divergent approaches can be accommodated in it, and no race or time can hold an exclusive monopoly on it.”
Allow me Madam Speaker to conclude by quoting the words of our State President, The Hon. Cyril Ramaphosa when he issued a statement in support of Ms. Caster Semenya and he said:
“Mokgadi. Champion. Beacon of hope. My daughter. This is only to remind you of your greatness; because you constantly remind us that nothing beats the enduring power of the human spirit, you may run alone on the track, but know now that you run with 57 million & more.”
We therefore declare the GREATNESS OF WOMEN - We pronounce that
Let women have the freedom to be women IN OUR SPORTING SOCIETY,
Let women have the right to participate in all sporting platforms which do NOT judge their gender through discriminatory practices
Let women’s sporting performance and resultant greatness not be questioned nor doubted.
Let us use Sport as a tool to Unite the World and not to divide it!
Wa’thinta abafazi – Wa’thintha imbokodo!