/ 20 August 2009

ANC condemns Semenya gender row

The African National Congress (ANC) on Thursday anointed new 800m world champion Caster Semenya as the nation’s ”golden girl” while condemning speculation on the runner’s gender.

The ANC called on South Africans to ”rally behind our golden girl and shrug off negative and unwarranted questions about her gender”, said ANC spokesperson Brian Sokutu in a statement on Thursday.

”Caster is not the only woman athlete with a masculine build and the International Association of Athletics Federation [IAAF] should know better.”

Semenya (18) won the 800m race in one minute 55,45 seconds in Berlin on Wednesday, shortly after the IAAF announced she would have to undergo a gender test.

”We condemn the motives of those who have made it their business to question her gender due to her physique and running style. Such comments can only serve to portray women as being weak,” Sokutu said.

”Not only has 18-year-old Caster made her family proud but the entire country — a boost for athletics. Her determination to succeed in becoming a world-renowned athlete has made Caster a role model for young athletes.”

The government’s Ministry of Women also praised Semenya.

”Semenya’s outstanding success despite negative media speculation about her gender demonstrates her determination and resolve to succeed,” the ministry said in a statement.

‘She’s a girl’
Meanwhile, the family of Semenya says she is definitely a woman, newspapers reported on Thursday.

”[The controversy] doesn’t bother me that much because I know she’s a woman — I raised her myself,” Semenya’s paternal grandmother Maputhi Sekgala told The Times.

”What can I do when they call her a man, when she’s not really a man? It is God who made her look that way,” said Sekgala.

She said her granddaughter had been teased at school for her looks and for being the only girl on the local soccer team. — AFP