Geneva, 22 March 2019 – The United Nations Human Rights Council has adopted without a vote a resolution that expresses concerns about existing discriminatory regulations, rules and practices that require some women and girl athletes to medically reduce their blood testosterone levels by undergoing unnecessary, humiliating and harmful medical procedures or hormone therapy in order to participate in women’s events in competitive sports. The resolution, brought by South Africa, also requests the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to prepare a report on the intersections between race and gender discrimination in sports.

“Thank you to South Africa and the Human Rights Council for approving this first resolution on the rights of people born with intersex variations. Access to sport is a litmus test for the rights of intersex people, highlighting the ways that our legal birth classifications can be disregarded, how our bodies are sites of public scrutiny and stigmatisation, and our right to bodily integrity disregarded. Previous IAAF regulations affecting women born with variations of sex characteristics were suspended in 2015 with no evidence of detriment to women’s sport. There is no published, transparent, and reproducible evidence of a clear or unethical advantage by women athletes born with variations of sex characteristics over other women athletes. Exclusion from women’s competitive sport is discriminatory under such circumstances; it is not reasonable, proportionate and non-arbitrary. Sporting authorities and associations must now recognise a need for procedures to meet international human rights standards” Morgan Carpenter, Intersex Human Rights Australia, and YP+10 signatory

The resolution recognises the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination that women and girls face in sports settings, because of their race and sex, and the right to bodily integrity and autonomy, among other things.

The 2018 regulations for the female classification published by the International Association for Athletics Federation (IAAF) are not reasonable nor objective and have a direct impact on women born with variations of sex characteristics. They are not compatible with international human rights law.

The UNESCO Revised International Charter of Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport (2015) states that equal opportunity to participate and be involved at all supervision and decision-making levels in sport is the right of every woman and girl – and this groundbreaking resolution reinforces that standard by calling on international sporting bodies to halt their policing of women and girl’s bodily integrity and autonomy in the name of fair play.

Furthermore the resolution reinforces the 2016 statement of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, outlining actions by States and sporting bodies to create an inclusive culture for intersex persons to fully and safely participate in sport.

“As the Special Rapporteur’s report states, sporting authorities must refrain from forcing, coercing, or otherwise pressuring any women athletes into undergoing unnecessary, irreversible and harmful medical procedures to participate as women in competitions. This includes removing requirements for irrelevant clinical data, and ending unnecessary medical procedures, as preconditions for women born with variations of sex characteristics to fully participate in competitions” Zhan Chiam, Programme Coordinator and Diana Carolina Prado Mosquera, Senior UN Advocacy Officer at ILGA

“We recognize the tremendous work from South Africa has in presenting this groundbreaking resolution and also acknowledge the importance on bringing this topic to the Council for the first time.” Tony Briffa, newly elected Chair of the Intersex Committee at ILGA.

ILGA particularly welcomes the contribution of the delegations of Iceland and New Zealand towards the successful adoption of the resolution. Consensus on this resolution is a positive signal of recognition by states that these type of guidelines and regulations violate the right to privacy and the right to freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, among others.

The undersigned organizations welcome this groundbreaking resolution which will put a spotlight to the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination that women and girls face in sport:

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA World)
Athlete Ally
NNID, Netherlands organisation for sex diversity
Organisation Intersex International Europe (OII Europe)
Intersex Human Rights Australia