Olympic athlete and South African distance champion Mokgadi Caster Semenya continues to face gender discrimination.

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4.26.2019

This Week in Women: Smiling In The Face of Discrimination

The fights against racism, sexism, and extremism are always brewing, and today the stories are particularly poignant. From smiling in the face of religious discrimination to running against gender controversies to calling out the Trump administration’s latest attack on women’s healthcare, it’s time to cover the headlines for This Week in Women!

One Muslim Woman’s Viral Response to Bigoted Protestors 

Shaymaa Ismaa’eel’s Instagram post went viral in a big way this week. The 24-year-old posted a picture of herself with a hijab and flashing a peace sign in front of angry anti-Islam protestors outside a convention in Washington, D.C.

“Kindness is a mark of faith. Those who aren’t kind have no faith,” Ismaa’eel captioned the post.

Ismaa’eel was one of 24,000 people attending the 44th annual Muslim American Society and the Islamic Circle of North America (MAS-ICNA) convention — an event to celebrate faith and advocacy.

“I asked my friend to take a picture. I wanted them to see me smile and see the love, I wanted to combat their hatred with love and a smile,” Ismaa’eel said in an interview with BBC News.

Caster Semenya’s Appeal Highlights Gender and Sports Controversy

Olympic athlete and South African distance champion Mokgadi Caster Semenya OIB easily secured a victory in the 5000m distance run at this week’s South African championships, beating out the defending champion Dominique Scott. Semenya is a dominant competitor in elite track and field, a five-time World and Olympic champion, collecting outstanding wins in every event from the 800m to the 5000m.

But Semenya’s career has never been completely void as controversy, as she has been subjected to gender testing following her 2009 World Championships performance. While she was cleared to begin competition again in July 2010, the possibility of further challenges were always on the horizon.

One year ago the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) announced a new rule that would require female athletes competing in middle distance races to be subjected to hormone testing, and if deemed necessary, take testosterone-lowering medication before competing. The Court of Sports Arbitration (CSA) has postponed a ruling on an appeal to the announced regulations, which is now expected to be released by the end of this month.

This controversy and case brings into play important conversations around gender identity, feminism, and athletics. While many argue that Semenya has unfair genetic advantages, other leading academics Dr. Sheree Bekker and Dr. Cara Tannenbaum wrote in BMJ that limiting testosterone is not a solution backed by science and would lead to discrimination and an unfair policing of women’s bodies. The ruling could also raise scrutiny of transgender athletes across disciplines.

“Ms. Semenya does not wish to undergo medical intervention to change who she is and how she was born. She wants to compete naturally,” Semenya presented in an official statement last month. “Women with DSDs are born with rare genetic differences. These differences should be celebrated in sports like all other genetic variations that make elite events worth watching. Mr. Coe (the IAAF president) is wrong to think Ms. Semenya is a threat to women’s sport. Ms. Semenya is a heroine and inspirational role model for young girls around the world who dream of achieving excellence in sport. Ms. Semenya hopes and dreams that one day she can run free of judgement, free of discrimination and in a world where she is accepted for who she is.”

Trump Administration Lessens Strength of UN Rape Resolution

Never content to unravel healthcare just at home, President Trump exercised his skewed ideologies abroad at the United Nations this week — pressuring language around reproductive healthcare services, including abortion services, to be removed from a UN rape resolution that protects and advocates for survivors of sexual violence.

Reported by CNN, as an investigative report over the language and revisions made to wording, the most recent developments point to a conservative religious agenda that the Trump administration is hell bent on furthering even at the risk of defunding critical programs.

“It is unthinkable and bizarre to see the US lining up with Russia and China to block efforts to strengthen the UN’s ability to effectively address rape in conflict and to provide sexual violence survivors with sexual and reproductive health services. This resolution is about the Rohinga girls systematically raped in Myanmar, the Yezidi girls enslaved by ISIS, the Congolese girls who flock to Panzi Hospital seeking medical help and desperately needing comprehensive health services for the sexual violence they have endured,” said Jessica Neuwirth, international women’s rights lawyer, activist and president of the Sisterhood is Global Insitute (SIGI), in an official statement. “It’s shocking that the United States turned its back on these girls and jeopardized this urgently-needed Security Council resolution. The United States played such a significant role in the creation of the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Now it is lining up with Russia and China to weaken rather than strengthen this life-saving work.”

Featured image via Daily Mail

Stay tuned to Milk for more of This Week in Women and check out our previous installments here.

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