Submission to the OHCHR on the elimination of discrimination against women and girls in sports

This submission aims to inform the High Commissioner report mandated by UN Human Rights Council resolution A/HRC/RES/40/5, which deals with discrimination against women and girls in sport and in particular with regulations by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF). The impetus for the tabling of this resolution by South Africa was the 2018 IAAF regulation requiring Caster Semenya, an elite athlete from South Africa, to undergo unnecessary, humiliating medical interventions to compete and which was challenged by her.

This submission locates discrimination in sports based on race and gender in the colonial, racist and patriarchal histories of northern states which continue in this neo-liberal, post-colonial world. Specifically, this submission makes the case that current contemporary sporting decisions and regulations cannot be read in isolation. More specifically it makes the case that international, regional and national sporting associations continue to enforce and coerce ‘conformity’ and ‘normalcy’ on bodies that they perceive to have deviated from the norm. The idea of ‘normalcy’ is almost always based on a patriarchal, racist, classist and ableist paradigm benefitting the ones in power. This submission argues that oppressions which are entrenched in competitive sport with its roots in imperialism, colonialism and patriarchy should be unpacked and suitably addressed to fulfil the objective of the resolution. This submission also aims to locate the resolution in the geo-political history of nation states and the use of sport by state and non-state actors to further existing racist and sexist ideologies.