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Expert blog: New guidance fails to address the human rights of gender-diverse athletes

As the Sports Councils Equality Group (SCEG) Guidance for Transgender Inclusion in Domestic Sport is released, Dr Seema Patel – an expert on gender rights in sport at Nottingham Law School – gives her reaction.

Shoes on a running track
The guidance released by the SCEG covers community sport up to national level

The SCEG has demonstrated a willingness to engage and explore the participation of trans athletes in sport in this report and it represents some progress in the development of open discussion about gender diversity and inclusion.

The encouragement of sport specific approaches is positive, and options/suggestions are set out in the guidance.

However, this report highlights the continued ignorance of the wider issues at stake when considering the inclusion of gender-diverse athletes, such as athletes rights. The omission of human rights standards and obligations further enhances my argument that there are significant human rights shortfalls in the current trans sport policies.

This is particularly surprising given that this report is aimed at community sport up to national level, where inclusion should be at the heart of any agenda.

The report continues to focus on the inconclusive science related to performance advantage, and much of the literature consulted appears to be in the science field. The wider body of academic writing on this topic has not been considered which has resulted in a narrow view of trans athlete inclusion. It is dangerous to pit inclusion and fairness/safety against each other because this has a negative impact upon the participation of gender diverse athletes.

There is a significant advancement of sex and gender identity in some societies currently, with recommendations for legal reform of gender status such as trans rights. Trans inclusion reaches beyond sport, and this requires recognition in sport policy making.

The Equality Act 2010 is cited and the exemption clause for sport is used to justify any exclusionary outcomes. This provision is problematic but nevertheless it must be read alongside regional and international human rights provisions that seek to protect individuals from mistreatment based on gender and places obligations to ensure that human rights, including trans rights, are sufficiently guaranteed.

The absence of athletes’ rights attention in the report reinforces my view that greater inclusivity should be achieved through a stronger enforcement of law and human rights in sport.

Dr Seema Patel, Senior Lecturer, Nottingham Law School

Expert blog: New guidance fails to address the human rights of gender-diverse athletes

Published on 1 October 2021
  • Category: Press office; Research; Nottingham Law School

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