Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
In 2009 Caster Semenya astonished everyone with her triumph at the World Athletics Championships. She was 18 years old at the time and crowned a season in which she dropped seven seconds to her best time in the 800m flat. In Berlin, the mark of the final took her to 13th place of all time and meant the widest margin of a champion compared to her rivals. However, as soon as she passed the finish line, accusations began to haunt her.
“She is a man,” said Italian runner Elisa Cusma, and as a powder the media replied. “Master Semenya is he or she,” said one of the Spanish newspapers accredited in the German capital on the front page. Meanwhile, another prestigious European newspaper began the day with “Semenya’s sexual ambiguity”. Above Usain Bolt’s three records, the news became the success of the tournament.
Then the IAAF demanded gender tests to confirm that she was a woman. There they discovered that the South African woman did not have a uterus or ovaries, but she did have internal testicles and testosterone levels three times above normal. Caster Semenya suffered from hyperandogenism. The results came out 21 days after the gold medal. And in the midst of the public debate about her sexual identity, many forgot that she was a teenager who never questioned her status as a woman.
This is confirmed by her family in Limpopo, South Africa’s northernmost province and the land where she was born in January 1991. “She played like all girls,” the grandmother said in an interview with the BBC, “but she also liked to run and always excelled at it. For many people, however, Semenya has a man’s back, voice and face, and looks different to the naked eye.
Amid the controversy, the IAAF required her to limit her blood testosterone levels to 10 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L), a decision that forced the athlete to take medication to control her body. However, she still repeated the universal title in 2011 and won the Olympics a year later, but so much time fighting herself in the end turned out to be too much.
In 2013 she didn’t even attend the World Cup and two seasons later she finished the semifinals in last place. Her career wasn’t so successful anymore… until another intersex runner raised her voice.
It was Dutee Chand, an Indian sprinter unable to attend the Commonwealth Games by refusing to limit testosterone values. After her complaint, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) considered that there was no evidence capable of demonstrating the advantage of athletes with hyperandrogenism.
The verdict removed the fourth year of regulations and Caster Semenya once again displayed all her power in Rio de Janeiro, the London World Cup and the Diamond League stops. Step by step, the South African rose in the historic ranking, won her first medal in the 1500m and won several nominations for best athlete of the season. But on April 26 of this year another IAAF decision threatened his career again.
According to the athletics governing body, athletes with hyperandrogenism would be forced to reduce their testosterone levels to 5 nmol/L by November 1, 2018. Otherwise, their only option was to compete as men, move to tests such as long-distance races and pitches or participate in divisional events for intersex athletes.
To support its proposal, the IAAF released a study which states that no woman should record more than 5 nmol/L of testosterone, “but those with differences in sexual development can have very high levels, which extends to the normal male range and even beyond. It was the conclusion that TAS did not find in its first research.
According to the report, “a higher proportion of testosterone increases muscle mass by 4.4%, strength by 12-26%, and hemoglobin by 7.8%. Experts estimate that the advantage of having circulating testosterone levels in the normal range of men rather than in the normal female range is greater than 9%.
When the analysis came out, the South African relived the same shock that accompanied her after her gold medal in 2009. Nearly a decade later, just two years after the last pill to control her body, her name was back in the headlines again. Although the rule doesn’t mention her directly, her face became one of the most wanted. And this time, far from the Berlin teenager, she decided to stand up and face everyone.
“I just want to run naturally, the way I was born. It’s not fair to be told that I have to change. It’s not fair for people to question who I am. I’m Mokgadi Caster Semenya, I’m a woman and I’m fast,” he said just three months ago when he filed an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport to stop the controversial decision.
The athlete’s lawyers argued that the measure “is discriminatory, irrational and unjustifiable,” and that it violates the Olympic Charter and human rights. The IAAF, for its part, maintains its argument about the need to “create categories of competition that guarantee the success determined by talent, dedication and hard work, instead of other factors that are not considered fair or significant, such as the enormous physical advantages that an adult has over a child, or a male athlete over a woman.
However, the news of the last days is in the announcement of postponing for five months the implementation of the rule, in order to wait for the verdict of the CAS and thus avoid the delay of the process initiated by Semenya affects other athletes involved. Now everyone is waiting for the result before March 26th.
“Prolonging uncertainty for athletes seeking to compete next year and beyond is unfair, so we have reached an agreement with the claimants. We have agreed not to enforce regulations against anyone until the regulations are respected. In return, they have agreed not to prolong the process. All athletes need this situation resolved as quickly as possible,” said IAAF President Sebastian Coe.
Although the director claims to have full confidence “in the legal, scientific and ethical basis of the Regulations and therefore I hope that the Court of Arbitration for Sport will reject these challenges”, this delay means hope for Semenya and for the South African Athletics Association.
According to the Guardian, the president of the African body, Aleck Skhosana, the rules will have a “discriminatory effect on female athletes” and his duty lies in “protecting all female athletes, because the regulations marginalize certain female athletes on the basis of natural physical characteristics and/or sex.
And there lies the key to the whole affair. For Semenya, its lawyers and many of its defenders, it is unfair to proscribe a person with physical or genetic conditions different from the rest, but who was born this way and never took prohibited substances or underwent any medical treatment to achieve it.
“No one questions the strides of Usain Bolt, the wingspan of Michael Phelps or the cardiovascular system of the Spanish cyclist Miguel Indurain. There is no such rule among men,” they say.
For its part, although the IAAF study recognizes that in tests such as hammer throwing – a specialty dominated by European and white athletes – the excesses of testosterone in blood offer an even greater advantage, the rule does not apply to those throwers. Many then question whether there is also discrimination on the basis of skin colour or geographical origin.
“It is always worrying, as a matter of law, when policies seem to be aimed at limiting the participation of a small group of people,” Suzanne Goldberg, director of Columbia University’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, told AFP. Her statements, along with those of the Women’s Sports Foundation and the organizers of the prestigious Wilma Rudolph Courage Award, shed light on an issue that does not yet have a clear end.
If CAS rejects the South African runner’s arguments and ultimately applies the decision, she must limit her testosterone or consider the option of climbing to 5,000 or 10,000 flat meters, tests where for now the rule is not effective. Meanwhile, if she wins the legal battle, it is almost certain that the world will continue to see the strides and master races of a girl who for a long time has struggled not to lose her essence as a woman.
By Juventud Rebelde
Posted: Saturday, March 3. 2018 | 06:54:26 PM
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
The machismo superimposed on honesty in health is concerned, makes Latin American men believe that they do not need to go to the doctor at risk of suffering serious illnesses and that they put their lives in danger.
Compared to other regions of the world, the health of Latin American men is more exposed to male chauvinism, believing that they are stronger than women and that they do not need to go to the doctor, puts them at risk of suffering serious and life-threatening illnesses.
This was recently announced by a study prepared by Panamanian specialists and reviewed by the Xinhua news agency.
The research explains that the decline in men’s health compared to women’s health is a global problem with great impact in our geographical area, although there is also a gap in the matter in Africa and Europe.
According to statistics, men in Latin American countries live between eight and 12 years less than women, mainly because the social stigma that considers them to be the head of the household weighs heavily on the lack of accurate reporting on men’s health.
In this region, the prevalence of certain metabolic, cardiovascular and sexual dysfunction diseases affecting men is increasingly noted.
It is common for men in this area of the planet to live less and less, and not only that, but to arrive much more deteriorated in their old age, because they never go to the doctor or have a follow-up visit.
The opposite is true of women, who, because of their preparation, are closely linked to a doctor, a pediatrician or a gynaecologist. Hence, it is the man who most often goes to the doctor with chronic illnesses.
By Yudith Madrazo Sosa
March 27, 2018
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews
Women are opening up more and more spaces in the professional world.
When Juan Julio, after finishing high school, expressed his willingness not to take the Higher Education entrance exams, but to start working immediately on an uncle’s “palate”, his parents believed that the world was coming down on them. Accustomed to the above-average school performance from the young man, they always imagined him in a university classroom, where he would be trained as an engineer or professional in any other discipline.
However, the boy chose a different path, a shorter one that would lead him to “earn money quickly, without the need to be more tormented by his studies”. He wasn’t the only one in his group to make the decision. Before and after him, others decided the same thing. Such an attitude is part of a global trend: fewer and fewer male faces are being counted in universities.
According to data from the National Office of Statistics and Information (Onei), in Cienfuegos at the beginning of the 2016-2017 academic year, 5,212 students enrolled in Higher Education, of whom only 1,955 (37.5 percent) were men. Similar behavior had been recorded in previous periods.
If we look only at the numbers, the majority of girls in higher education would make us overflow with satisfaction, as we see how they are opening up more and more spaces in the professional world. But the fact, while reflecting the advancement of girls and young women, reveals the declining enrolment of boys at this level, a reality with different causes and whose analysis occupies many social researchers.
Some academics in the United Kingdom point out that the problem has its origins in primary education, although it is nourished by the economic reasons that discourage boys and lead them to think that a simple university degree is not worth the effort, time or financial resources necessary to obtain it. In the case of Cuba, although education is free, there are collateral costs during this time that not all families can afford. That is why some youngsters prefer to take the shortcuts that quickly lead to autonomy and economic solvency.
An inquiry by specialists from the Center for the Study of the Improvement of Higher Education (Cepes) of the University of Havana showed that in the 2014-2015 academic year, the preference for employment options was the main reason why high school students did not choose to move on to the next level. This interest is related to the economic reforms undertaken in the country, which open up multiple possibilities for non-state employment in areas where university degrees are not required and are better-paid than in the state sector.
But it is not always for these reasons that boys have less access to higher education institutions. Some who do have an interest fail because of insufficient school performance to meet that aspiration.
In this regard, research conducted by the University of Bristol sheds light on the fact that families tend to be more concerned about the school performance of girls than boys, with whom they are much more permissive. “Generally, parents are less concerned about their sons’ low grades than their daughters,” the inquiry says.
And it is not difficult to hear in our environment comments that support this idea. Phrases such as “if you want to leave school, you want to leave it, you want to become a mechanic like your father”; or “to be a driver, which you like, you don’t need to study so much”, are often expressed when you talk about your children’s professional future. Not so with their female peers, who almost always receive greater incentives: “study so that you can be someone in life and have your own money”, it is common to hear.
Let us add that the new forms of employment existing in the country are much more favorable for men. Although a not insignificant number of women have taken up self-employment, they are the majority of those who carry out the best-paid activities or run the juiciest businesses. These jobs undoubtedly have a powerful appeal to young people.
In the opinion of Dr. María Isabel Domínguez García, of the Centre for Psychological and Sociological Research of the Citma, “the intense feminization of Higher Education, although it is one of the great social achievements in the sense of promoting greater inclusion and equality of women, obliges us to consider policies that also stimulate the interest of young men in university education and guarantee the real possibilities of accessing and completing it successfully”.
One of these policies could be to stimulate the modality of courses by meetings, a good option for those children who need to work, as well as to make some processes more flexible in the regular daytime course, so that they can combine study with work.
Whatever the reasons why fewer men are coming to universities, it is urgent to explore mechanisms to achieve equity and create opportunities for girls and boys to live equally on campus.