STATEMENT: GENDER VERIFICATION TESTING & EXCLUSION WAFCON 2022
Updated: Aug 1, 2022
Following reports that Zambian footballer, Barbra Banda, along with three other unnamed teammates, have been excluded from WAFCON 2022 following gender verification testing, the international equality-in-sport charity, equitysport, has made a statement.
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Photo: National Heroes Stadium, Lusaka, Zambia (Courtesy of T Harper)
equitysport remains deeply concerned by the continuing and pervasive inequalities that disproportionately impact certain groups of women within the global sporting ecosystem at a local, regional and international level; and the lack of transparency in the global autonomous regulation of sport by private transnational bodies.
On the 6th July 2022, the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) confirmed that the absence of Barbra Banda and three other unnamed members of the Zambian squad at the 2022 African Women’s Cup of Nations was due to the failure of CAF-mandated gender verification tests.
It has been widely reported that pre-tournament tests of all four players had revealed natural testosterone levels that exceeded limits set by CAF, the governing body for football in Africa.
CAF currently requires team physicians to attest that players have “been examined to verify their gender”, an apparent attempt to apply FIFA regulations from 2011 that require football federations to “actively investigate any perceived deviation in secondary sex characteristics”.
We, at equitysport, believe that these requirements are invasive, discriminatory and have been devised in ways that uphold Western gender constructs and discriminate against women from the Global South. We are confused as to why CAF are continuing to use a single biological marker, in this case testosterone, to determine sex despite there being little confirmatory scientific evidence to justify its use.
We have long held a position that sex-testing regulations, and the requirement for particular athletes to engage in medically unnecessary interventions, such as offered to Barbra Banda following the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021 (2020) to reduce their natural testosterone levels, deny certain women an equal right to participate in sport.
Further, we believe that the opaque, and targeted application of FIFA guidelines, such as in this case, risks violating the following rights of certain athletes:
The right of everyone to be free from arbitrary interference with their privacy.
The right to respect for the dignity, bodily integrity and bodily autonomy of the person.
The right to work and to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work.
The right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
The right to freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
We are confused by the determination of CAF (and by extension, FIFA) to join other transnational governing bodies in administering their sex-testing apparatus in the shadows, refusing to provide up-to-date and transparent (non-identifying) information on how these regulations are being applied in practice, such as the number of tests, the distribution of testing around the world, and the decision making process that is being utilised to warrant each and every test.
We are particularly concerned that sex-testing regulations and the application of regulations across the global sporting ecosystem seem to be disproportionately impacting athletes from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, with high profile cases over the past decade including:
Barbra Banda (Zambia)
Caster Semenya (South Africa)
Annet Negesa (Uganda)
Margaret Wambui (Kenya)
Francine Niyonsaba (Burundi)
Santhi Soundarajan (India)
Dutee Chand (India)
Christine Mboma (Namibia)
Beatrice Masilingi (Namibia)
Sport is often conveniently binary, but as our world and understanding of it continues to evolve and grow, so too, must sport. The very relevance and longevity of sport as an important cultural institution will depend on its ability to include rather than exclude, to build bridges and facilitate inclusivity over demanding that people, the world over, conform to arbitrary definitions of the Western ideal dripping in imperialistic sentiment.
We are all born with and possess the same rights, regardless of where we come from, what our gender, sex or race might be, what religion we follow or our social, cultural or ethnic background.
In sport, any ruling that has a negative impact on a person’s full enjoyment of their human rights, or risks violating those same rights is illegitimate and wrong. We believe that in years to come, the targeted, goal-post shifting marginalisation of a particular group of women in sport will be remembered as a stain on its collective conscience.
To demand that any human being makes physical alterations to their body as a precondition to participating in sport is morally reprehensible and undermines the integrity and value of sport as an instrument for the promotion and realisation of peace, development, solidarity and human rights.
equitysport is a values-led registered charity (1189559) that exists to advance equality, promote diversity and extend equal opportunity in and through global sport. We seek an inclusive and equitable sporting ecosystem that lives true to the values of sport.
For interviews or further comment from equitysport, please contact the team via firstname.lastname@example.org