Department of Sport, Arts and Culture Minister, Zizi Kodwa, has commended the decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which vindicates Caster Semenya’s fight for her dignity and reinforces the call for the protection of women’s rights in sport.
The European Court of Human Rights has affirmed that Semenya was denied recourse by the Switzerland Supreme Court and the Court of Arbitration for Sport in her appeals against the World Athletics track and field organisation’s new regulations.
The regulations have ruled Semenya out of several international athletic competitions unless she underwent treatment to lower her testosterone levels.
The Court has affirmed that Semenya had not been afforded sufficient institutional and procedural safeguards in Switzerland to allow her to have her complaints examined effectively.
Kodwa said, as a two-time Olympic champion and three-time World champion, Semenya has repeatedly displayed excellence and dignity on and off the athletics track.
He said Semenya has done so throughout her career whilst being subjected to offensive treatment, which has led to her being prevented from competing in her favoured events.
“While the fight to have Caster racing in her favoured athletics events continues, the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights is a clear statement at how Caster has faced discrimination in her fight against the offensive regulations she has been subjected to.
“I have repeatedly stated that women’s rights are human rights. As the South African Government, we will continue to support Caster and Athletics South Africa (ASA) in the fight for the dignity of women athletes, and for Caster’s right to race again in her favoured events,” Kodwa said.
Restrictions amounted to Semenya’s violation of rights
The Commission for Gender Equality has also welcomed the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling, noting that it has long maintained that World Athletics’ restrictions and modification of its regulations in 2018 amounted to severe violation of Semenya’s right to bodily integrity, human dignity, and privacy.
“The Commission’s decision to support Caster Semenya as intervener in this matter is a direct message that the institution will continue without fail to uphold its constitutional and legislative mandate by protecting the rights of those that are discriminated against based on their sexual orientation and gender,” said Commission spokesperson, Java Baloyi.
The Commission has called upon the South African Government, as a signatory to a range of international instruments on the rights of women, to use its influence and diplomatic channels to bring pressure on the World Athletics.
This is to ensure that the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling is respected, and allow Semenya and other affected female athletes to compete free of unethical restrictions and unfair discrimination that impact negatively on the right to bodily integrity.