Date: 16 May 2024

Opinion Piece By: Javu Baloyi


The people of Ga-Masehlong village in Limpopo have something that they pride themselves in. That pride is their golden girl Mokgadi Caster Semenya. Many parents throughout the whole country, not just Limpopo, had hopes and aspirations that their daughters would follow suit in pursuing their dreams. Unfortunately, Caster’s dream was cut short before it reached its peak. Her only crime was being a person with testosterone levels that are higher than the threshold determined by the 2019 World Athletics Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification.  These Regulations compounded the fact that since 2008, the World Athletics body had been doing everything in its power to thwart every effort by Caster and other athletes with raised testosterone levels to participate in national and international athletics events.

Fast forward to present day, Caster will be facing yet another legal hurdle on the 15th of May 2024 at the Grand Chamber of the European Court for Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg, France. There, 17 judges will hear an appeal by the Swiss government against a July 2023 judgment in favour of Caster which found that the World Athletics is bound by international human rights convention and may not discriminate against anyone on the grounds of gender without compelling reasons.

The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), Norton Rose Fulbright, Probono.org, activists across the globe, Civil Society Organisations and many other stakeholders have been rallying behind Caster’s quest for justice against the continual denial of her right to participate in sport. The CGE views this conduct by World Athletics as a violation of her rights due to the discriminatory Regulation.

The agony and trauma of having one’s inherent ability thwarted and dreams taken away by a discriminatory act that is in violation of various international conventions, protocols, etc is devastating. The vociferous activism by the Commission for Gender Equality and the extraordinary tenacity by Norton Rose Fulbright, provided a strong support system to enable Caster to see this case to finality. How many people could have had such mental strength to sustain unrelentless attack from World Athletics body supported by the country of Switzerland?

Engaging Caster herself on how she feels about the upcoming case, one can see the amount of courage needed to see this to the end. However, with the support of the Commission for Gender Equality, Probono.org, Norton Rose Fulbright and many others, giving up was not an option. Our golden girl deserves all the support she can get. This is no longer about Caster in principle as hers is a dream deferred, dream denied. It is about a Caster versus Goliath battle to ensure that the rights and dignity of women will not be trampled upon in future by international sports bodies in in violation of human rights values. It is against this backdrop that the Commission for Gender Equality is calling on everyone within Africa, the African diaspora, France, Switzerland, and Asia to see this matter as nothing but a bullying tactic to oppress individuals who stand up against the violation of their dignity and rights through discriminatory rules and practices.

Javu Baloyi is the Spokesperson of the Commission for Gender Equality.