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United Nations Human Rights Council throws its weight behind Caster Semenya

PRETORIA SOUTH AFRICA – APRIL 24: South African athlete Caster Semenya during a welcome back event for Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) athletes who participated in the Common Wealth Games on April 24, 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius)

In the wake of the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) announcing a decision to delay its ruling on whether Caster Semenya will be allowed to take part in athletics, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a resolution on 'the elimination of discrimination against women and girls in sport'.

On Human Rights Day, the UNHRC came out in support of star athlete , Caster Semenya when it “call(ed) upon States to ensure that sporting associations and bodies refrain from developing and enforcing policies and practices that force, coerce or otherwise pressure women and girl athletes into undergoing unnecessary, humiliating and harmful medical procedures in order to participate in women’s events in competitive sports”.

The resolution comes after the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) said in a statement released also released on 21 March that the date for ruling on the matter had moved from 26 March 2019 to the “end of April 2019” as the parties involved had submitted new evidence for review.

The adoption of this resolution was welcomed by South Africa, a feeling conveyed by the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO).

In a statement DIRCO lauded the fact that “the human rights system had taken a stance of holding international sport associations to account for their obligations under international human rights law.”

The international community has a duty to protect and defend the rights of Caster Semenya and other female athletes like her across the world, based on the premise that their human rights are being violated” said minister of International Relations and Co-operation Lindiwe Sisulu.

The resolution was co-sponsored by eSwatini, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Burundi, India, Iceland and Canada; and Sisulu conveyed the gratitude of South Africa to these nations for their support, adding that “the international campaign to preserve Caster’s right to participate in global sports, is a struggle for all women in the world against discrimination, sexism, and patriarchy”. DM

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