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Transforming Society

Securing Rights

Restoring Dignity

Rights commission enters Caster fray

20 October 2021

THE SA Human Rights Commission SAHRC has filed its submission as thirdparty intervener before the European Court of Human Rights ECtHR in the matter of Semenya v Switzerland. Caster Semenya is a South African middledistance runner and winner of two Olympic gold medals and three World Championships in the women's 800 metres. The commission said this was the first time it had involved itself in human rights litigation in an international forum. "Ms Semenya lodged an application with the ECtHR on February 18, in terms of which she challenges regulations issued by the International Association of Athletics Federations IAAF , which requires her to lower her natural testosterone levels through hormone treatment in order to be eligible to compete as a woman in international sporting events," the commission stated. The commission further said Semenya's challenge was grounded in various rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights ECHR . The SAHRC said it had successfully sought leave to intervene in the matter so it could elucidate the adverse impacts of the IAAF's Differences of Sex Development DSD regulations on women from the Global South. The commission said its submission did not purport to comment on the merits of the matter, and instead aimed to demonstrate the discriminatory effect of the regulations on the intersecting grounds of race and gender. "In particular, the commission, as an independent intervenor comparable to a friend of the Court , seeks to illustrate how the impugned regulations breach Article 14 prohibition of discrimination in conjunction with Article 8 right to respect for private and family life and or Article 3 prohibition of torture of the ECHR," it added. The SAHRC said it sought to demonstrate that intersectional discrimination had a unique and synergistic discriminatory effect on women from the Global South.

"The matter raises complex issues regarding the relation of dignity to the right to equality and nondiscrimination as well as to other ECHR rights; the appropriate approach in respect of intersectional discrimination; and how the justificatory analysis should be framed in instances of intersectional discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, gender identity and expression," said the commission. Furthermore the commission said it sought to achieve its aims with reference to the rich normative jurisprudence of the South African Constitutional Court. "In the light of the complexity of the human rights issues raised, the commission has requested to make oral submissions in the event that the ECtHR grants a hearing in this case," the SAHRC said.

Source: The Star

The South African Human Rights Commission.

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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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