May 12, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether the World Athletics’ ban on transgender women in the women’s category holds up. We also look at the crucial win for the Delhi government, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Does World Athletics’ ban on transgender women in the women’s category hold up?
It wasn’t very long ago that transwomen began competing in the Olympic Games. Only two years ago, in fact. In 2021, Laurel Hubbard became the first transwoman to compete in the women’s category of the Summer Olympics – or any Olympics, for that matter. She is a weightlifter who didn’t win a medal and yet made history.
That year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) committed to observe non-discrimination and an evidence-based approach to determine participation. Yet, transwoman athletes will still be left out, after all.
In March, World Athletics (WA), the international governing body for track and field sports, banned transgender women who have gone through male puberty from competing in elite sports. WA president Sebastion Coe clarified it was a move to “protect the female category.” This claim raised several flags, especially about how the decision stands in the court of rights and science.
The Olympics’ athletics, like most Olympic sports, is gender segregated. The first mixed event with all genders happened in 2020. To be sure, the IOC’s non-discrimination regulatory framework isn’t binding on the international federations of different sports. So the governing bodies of, let’s say, weightlifting or athletics are free to determine the tenets which decide participation.
By instituting the ban, WA has turned around its previous rules which allowed transwomen to compete in elite competitions if they bring their blood testosterone down to 5 nanomoles per litre (nmol/L) and maintain it there for 12 months.
This regulation prevented athletes like the two-time Olympic 800-metre champion Caster Semenya and her 2016 Olympics rival, Francine Niyonsaba, from competing at the 2020 Games organised in 2021. To be able to compete, Namibia’s Christine Mboma decided to switch from the 400-metre distance to the 200-metre in Tokyo and won a silver medal.
In March 2023, the WA further tightened regulations. They chopped the maximum amount of plasma testosterone allowed for transwomen and Disorder of Sex Development (DSD) athletes in half to 2.5 nmol/L.
Then they doubled the period determining their eligibility so that athletes had to maintain the same blood testosterone level for at least 24 months before competing in female competitions.
But the regulation didn’t receive much support from the fraternity.
The body that formed these stringent rules, and even the subsequent ban, called it an effort to ensure that women, who didn’t undergo male puberty, aren’t unfairly disadvantaged in the women’s category. While the federations acknowledge that transwomen have had a painstaking journey in sports, they argue that they must prioritise other women so that the women’s segment doesn’t get bogged down.
But does inclusivity really threaten the well-being of the women’s category?
VIEW: It’s for the better
The athletics federation argues that the women’s category must be protected. To be sure, in the past, some cisgender athletes or their families have protested the inclusion of transwomen in the women’s category. For both the players and the authorities, transwomen who have undergone male puberty are more likely to have an edge in the kind of physical performance required in the sport. It’s biological, they say.
While permitting transwomen in the women’s category now might not seem much of a threat to cisgender women, it may change in the future. More participation of transwomen might accumulate more medals in their cohort, as opposed to other women.
Besides, who’s to say what the future holds? The WA has set up a working group that will spend a year considering the possibility of including transgender athletes in the future. Apart from this, the governing body is also counting on richer literature to develop in the future, to help them relax the ban.
COUNTERVIEW: Nothing to support it
Transgender activists argue that the federation’s decision to deny transwomen the opportunity to play in the women’s category stinks of discrimination. Protecting cisgender women at the expense of transwomen doesn’t have to be the way. Their inclusion could shake up the rigid sex segregation practices in sports at all levels. Besides, the existing win rates of transwomen suggest that other women don’t have much to fear on the undue advantage front.
The WA’s decision seems to be based on an assumption, rather than evidence, that transwomen have a physical advantage over cis women. A 2015 study found that transitioning led to athletes’ speed reducing by eightfold and eliminating any physical advantage they might have had. Suffice it to say there’s not enough literature to derive any conclusions yet. Besides, transwomen aren’t the only women with elevated testosterone levels. Between 4% and 20% of women globally have polycystic ovarian syndrome, an underdiagnosed syndrome that results in increased testosterone.
The WA’s decision could limit performance studies critical to gauge the impact of transwomen’s presence in the women’s category. It could drive young trans people away from sports. Already, there are bills stacked up in the United States which call for transwomen and girls to play with men. Trans people endure several obstacles, of which this ban proves to be a shining example.
- Transgender athletes and the fight for inclusion – The Sydney Morning Herald
- World Athletics banned transgender women from competing. Does science support the rule? – Science
- “We’re being hounded” – French transgender sprinter decries Olympics ban – Reuters
- This scientist is racing to discover how gender transitions alter athletic performance—including her own – Science
- World Athletics bans transgender women from competing in female world ranking events – BBC
- Four Myths About Trans Athletes, Debunked – ACLU
- Trans Girls Belong on Girls’ Sports Teams – Scientific American
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The World Athletics ban on transgender women in the women’s category holds up.
b) The World Athletics ban on transgender women in the women’s category doesn’t hold up.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Why we need to remember the Muslims who raised their voice for a united India
For the Left:
Six years of Yogi Government’s achievements
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Delhi government, not LG, to run Delhi (New Delhi) – The Supreme Court has delivered a crucial win to Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in its protracted power struggle with the Centre. In a majority decision, the court ruled today that the Delhi government must have control over services, and the Lieutenant Governor is bound by its verdict. The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court held that the Delhi government has been vested with all legislative powers to articulate the aspirations of the people.
Why it matters: The Supreme Court’s Constitution Bench emphasized that in a democratic form of governance, the elected arm of government must have actual power over administration. The bench further clarified that the central government’s authority in matters where both the Centre and states can legislate is limited to avoid taking over governance. Additionally, the court pointed out that while the Delhi LG has certain powers, they do not imply complete control over the entire Delhi government, as it would defeat the purpose of holding elections. This ruling is significant as it effectively empowers the elected government, putting an end to unnecessary conflict.
Nation’s first robotics framework (Telangana) – On Tuesday, Telangana accomplished yet another milestone by becoming the first state in the country to establish a Robotics Framework. The Telangana State Robotics Framework, unveiled by IT Minister KT Rama Rao with a robot as a co-host, is designed to establish a viable robotics ecosystem that cultivates ingenuity, entrepreneurship, and research and development, cementing Telangana’s position as a trailblazer in the field of robotics.
Why it matters: The State’s Emerging Technologies wing has developed and launched the sixth structure in its unique Policy, Partnerships, and Projects (PPP) Framework. The previous five actionable policy frameworks were Blockchain (2018), Drones (2019), Artificial Intelligence (2020), Cloud Adoption Framework (2021), and Space Tech (2022). As part of the program, a Robo Park with testing facilities, co-working options, and production possibilities will be established, along with a top-notch robotics accelerator that provides entrepreneurs with necessary incubation, facilities authorization assistance, and mentorship.
Santiniketan for UNESCO world heritage site (West Bengal) – An international advisory council has proposed that Santiniketan, the site where Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore created Visva-Bharati over a century ago, be added to the UNESCO World Heritage List, according to Union Culture Minister G Kishan Reddy. Santiniketan, located more than 160 kilometers from Kolkata, was founded as an ashram by Tagore’s father, Debendranath Tagore, who was a key figure of the Indian Renaissance.
Why it matters: At Santiniketan, anybody, regardless of caste or creed, was free to practice meditation. Rabindranath established Visva-Bharati University in 1921 with the aim of creating an educational institution that would combine the best of Indian and Western traditions. He believed that education should be a means of fostering creativity, promoting critical thinking, and developing a sense of community. India has long sought a UNESCO designation for this cultural monument in West Bengal’s Birbhum region.
FC Goa teen goes to Manchester United (Goa) – Aaryav Da Costa, a player from FC Goa’s league-winning U-13 team, has been selected to train with the Premier League club Manchester United. Aaryav was one of the four winners of the grassroots football competition ‘United We Play’, organized by Apollo Tyres in partnership with the Premier League Club. The announcement of the winners took place at a grand finale held in Mumbai earlier this week, marking the end of the initiative’s third season.
Why it matters: The competition drew participation from almost 6,600 budding footballers across India. As a reward for his achievement, Aaryav will travel to Manchester later this year, where he will receive training under the expert coaches at Manchester United Soccer Schools. This is an exhilarating opportunity for Aaryav to polish his skills and advance his football career. Indian footballers are working hard in order to upgrade their game and are also striving to put India on the global football map.
First Border Haat reopens after 3 years (Tripura) – On Tuesday, the Border Haat at Srinagar in Sabroom, South Tripura, was reopened in the presence of officials from India and Bangladesh after being closed for three years. The ceremony was attended by Dhanbabu Reang, additional district magistrate of South Tripura, and his Bangladeshi counterpart, Abhishek Das from Feni district. Although there was an impressive gathering of buyers from India, their counterparts from Bangladesh were absent, and the number of traders from both countries was limited.
Why it matters: As per the decision made by both countries, the Srinagar Border Haat will convene every Tuesday from 9 am to 4 pm. The administration has already upgraded the facilities for buyers and sellers, renovated the infrastructure, and provided adequate security arrangements. Initially opened in January 2015, the Srinagar Border Haat was shut down in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Haat will not only provide livelihood opportunities and boost the economy of bordering villages but also strengthen the relationship between the people of both countries.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
46 – Haryana has established 46 new health facilities in 17 districts, including a civil hospital.