Athletics-Rules for intersex athletes similar to apartheid, says Cameroon minister-counsellor

July 7 (Reuters) - World Athletics is discriminating against women with intersex variations by requiring them to reduce high testosterone levels to participate in the female category and the rules are similar to apartheid, a Cameroon minister-counsellor said on Wednesday.

Come Damien Georges Awoumou, minister-counsellor at the Cameroon mission to the United Nations, made the comments on behalf of the African group of countries at a special debate on sports and human rights held at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Namibian athletes Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi were withdrawn last week from the 400m event at the Olympic Games after tests revealed their natural testosterone levels were too high.

“We are witnessing a situation where the IAAF (World Athletics) through these regulations is using sports to discriminate against women with intersex variations and to reinforce harmful gender stereotypes,” Awoumou said.

“The majority of athletes affected by the regulations are from the global south and for Africa these regulations remind us of the difficult and dark past of racial segregation.

“These stereotypes contribute to several other violations of women’s rights including their rights to health, privacy and to be free from torture.

“Segregating women on the basis of intersex variations has the same effect as apartheid, one of the international crimes against humanity.”

Reuters has contacted World Athletics for comment on the statement from Awoumou.

Both Mboma and Masilingi failed to meet the World Athletics eligibility regulations for female classification that apply to running events from 400 metres to the mile.

The same rules have prevented South African Caster Semenya, Francine Niyonsaba from Burundi and Kenya’s Margaret Wambui from competing in the 800m race after refusing to lower their testosterone levels with medication.

After Semenya lost her appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal last year, World Athletics said that its regulations were legitimate and a “fair, necessary and proportionate means of ensuring the rights of all female athletes to participate on fair and equal terms”.

Awoumou urged the body to revise its regulations and added: “We reiterate that the regulations are not based on objective and reasonable criteria, and we fail to understand their justification under international human rights law as they further do not uphold the principle of non-discrimination between men and women.” (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Mitch Phillips, Writing by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru Editing by Christian Radnedge)