South African Minister Writes UN to Decry Treatment of Semenya and “Patriarchy in the Sporting World”

Jodi Jacobson

In a letter to the UN, South African Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities states that the questioning of Caster Semenya's gender is based on a stereotypical view of physical features and abilities attributable to women, and demonstrates the extent of patriarchy within the world’s sporting community.

See also today’s piece by Katherine Franke of Columbia University Law School.

The Herald of South Africa reports that Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya, the Minister for Women, Children
and People with Disabilities, has written to the UN’s Division for the Advancement
of Women (DAW), arguing that there has been a blatant disregard for athlete Caster Semenya’s
human dignity and requesting an investigation into whether
Semenya has been treated in line with its protocols on
gender and equality.

Semenya won a gold medal for the 800 meter race in the International
Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) meeting in last month.  Last week an Australian newspaper claimed IAAF tests showed her body contained both male and female organs.

Mayende-Sibiya argued that  in terms of South Africa law governing sex identification, Semenya is a woman.

Appreciate our work?

Rewire is a non-profit independent media publication. Your tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.


The Herald reports that:

The IAAF has not commented on this, but in the meantime Mayende-Sibiya
believes the matter violates at least three international commitments
governed by the UN on protection and promotion of rights of women.

Mayende-Sibiya argues that treatment of Semenya’s case:

  • undermines article 13 of the Convention on the
    Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women which requires
    measures be put in place to eliminate discrimination and promote the
    rights of women to participate in sports;

  • violates the Beijing Platform for Action which calls for
    gender-sensitive program for girls and women of all ages and support
    in all areas of athletics including coaching and administration at the
    national, regional and international levels;

  • contradicts the Brighton Declaration of 1994 which called for a
    sporting culture that values and enables the full involvement of women
    in every aspect of sport.

Mayende-Sibiya wrote:

equal opportunity to be involved in sport for leisure or for
competition, is the right of all women and men, girls and boys.

“I would therefore like to request that the UN Division for Advancement
of Women investigates this matter as it has severe consequences for
women participation in sports globally,” she wrote in her letter to DAW
director Carolyn Hannan.

should be some degree of transparency from the IAAF about the sequence
of events that led to Miss Semenya’s gender being subjected to such
unjustified public scrutiny,” Minister Mayende-Sibiya states in her

“The questioning of her gender is based on [a] stereotypic view of the
physical features and abilities attributable to women. Such stereotypes
demonstrate the extent of patriarchy within the world’s sporting
community,” she said.

Load More

Enjoy reading Rewire? Sign up for our email list to receive exclusive news and reporting.

Thank you for reading Rewire!