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September 11, 2009

Gender tests reported on Caster Semenya

Caster_Semenya

Huffington Post reports:

Gender tests on running sensation Caster Semenya determined she has internal male sexual organs, Australian newspapers reported Friday, triggering new outrage from South Africa and her father, who called her critics "crazy" and "sick."

The International Association of Athletics Federations, which ordered the testing, refused to confirm or deny the reports in the Sydney Daily Telegraph and the Sydney Morning Herald that Semenya is a hermaphrodite with no ovaries and internal testes that produce large amounts of testosterone.

The IAAF said it is reviewing the test results on the 18-year-old runner and will not issue a final decision until November.

South African Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile expressed his horror at the handling of the affair and insisted Caster, who won the 800-meter race at the world championships in Berlin last month, is female.

"We think her human rights have been violated and her privacy invaded," Stofile said. "I don't know why she is being subjected to this."

Semenya dropped out of sight Friday. The South African Press Association quoted her coach, Michael Seme, as saying she would not take part in a women's 4,000-meter race at the South African Cross Country Championships in Pretoria on Saturday because she was "not feeling well." Seme had said earlier in the week that she would run.

If Semenya is indeed intersex (a term that covers a range of conditions), she is apparently lucky in one respect: intersex babies whose ambiguous gender is outwardly evident are often subjected to genital mutilation — procedures which are performed to assuage parents' distress or doctors' disapproval of their apparent failure to conform to traditional gender standards. These mutilations, like the female genital mutilations still practiced in some countries, often rob intersex people of the ability to enjoy sex as adults.

In the present case, unlike those awful surgeries, Semenya's humiliation is being conducted publicly. One can only hope that she is being surrounded by love, support, and understanding.

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