Statement on Caster Semenya

Statement on Caster Semenya

As Mokgadi ‘Caster’ Semenya proudly received her gold medal today in Berlin we join with the rest of the country in declaring our pride and joy at the astounding achievement of this amazing young woman. We are deeply disturbed that questions around her gender have taken prominence away from her performance throughout the international media and condemn utterly the demand from the International Association of Athletics Federations that she should undergo gender testing.

Some 200 years ago a young South African woman named Saartjie Baartman was forcefully removed to Europe, as a woman who was physically different to the commonly accepted norm she became a figure of curiosity and disgust to the people she was paraded in front of. After her death she was dissected. Now Caster is likewise to be dissected; poked, prodded and tested by a panel of doctors who on the basis of their ‘investigations’ will pass judgement on who and what she is. Making an abysmal mockery of her history, her family and her right to ownership of her identity.

That the IAAF chose to reveal that a gender test had been requested before her race thereby forcing her to run under a media storm was disgraceful. It is against the IAAFs own rules to comment on athletes being tested for drugs related offences before the outcome of the test is known, there seems to be no good reason why the same courtesy was not extended to Caster. Nor is she the first woman to face these allegations, athletes from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe particularly have throughout the history of the sport been subjected to suspicion around their gender based solely on their physical appearance and perceived lack of femininity. In 2006 Indian sprinter Santhi Soundarajan was stripped of the silver medal won at the Asian Games due to the fact that despite having the external organs of a woman, being brought up as a woman and self identifying as a woman her genetic tests indicated that she was not fully female. The testing is invasive, insulting, based on a very limited and questionable understanding of what constitutes a woman and has no place in modern sport.

We stand in full solidarity with Caster and applaud Athletics South Africa and other sports bodies for throwing their full support being her. We hope this support will be maintained regardless of the results of the gender inquisition to which Caster is to be subjected.

Emily Craven

Joint Working Group

011 403 5566

emily@jwg.org.za

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