SA Human Rights Commission to intervene in Semenya’s court challenge
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CAPE TOWN - The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is set to intervene in Caster Semenya’s challenge of regulations that impact on her competing on the international stage.
The commission has been granted leave to intervene as a third party, to make written submissions to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) by October 12.
This is the first time that the commission is involved in human rights litigation in an international forum, and also the first known occasion that the ECHR has granted an African human rights institution leave to intervene in a matter.
Semenya lodged an application with the ECHR on February 18, 2021, challenging regulations issued by World Athletics, 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, citing that it was a human rights violation.
This follows reports that scientists behind a 2017 study had now issued a correction about the impact that high levels of naturally occurring testosterone in female athletes had on performance.
The commission said it applied to the ECHR to join the case.
“The commission sought leave to intervene in the matter so as to elucidate the adverse impacts of World Athletics’ Differences of Sex Development (DSD) regulations on women from the Global South.
“In particular, the commission wishes to make submissions to the ECHR which demonstrate the discriminatory effect of the regulations on the intersecting grounds of race and gender, and which further show 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,” the commission said in a statement.
Although the court has issued questions to the parties in the matter, the commission said it will assert its neutrality and confine its submission to the discriminatory impact of the DSD regulations on women athletes from the Global South.
The commission said it is represented by a formidable legal team, comprising of five counsel, with the entire legal team acting on a pro bono basis. They have also solicited the expert advice of an ad hoc committee including experts from the UK.
“The commission extends its sincere gratitude to the excellent legal team, expert committee and its own staff for their tireless work in reaching this important milestone in the commission’s endeavour to promote equality and help eliminate discrimination in its various guises,” the commission said.