European Women’s Lobby requests equality for women athletes at 2012 Olympics

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Olympic torch
The Olympic torch is in clear view with the Olympic rings behind. This year women are lobbying for equality during the 2012 Olympic competitions in London. Image: Asian Media

(WNN) London, UNITED KINGDOM: In a concentrated effort to bring attention to discrimination against women in sports, 60 women delegates from Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia rallied in London this week to demand: “London 2012: Justice for Women – an end to gender discrimination at the Olympics.”

The protest was coordinated by the European Women’s Lobby, which is linked to a network of more than 1,500 women’s organisations across Europe. “In advance of the Olympics, our intention is to remind the IOC (International Olympic Committee) of its obligation to apply the principles of equality and neutrality inscribed in the Olympic Charter,” said London 2012: Justice for Women.

The delegation presented letters to all IOC delegates at the Hilton Hotel, Park Lane, where the IOC is headquartered. The letters outlined seven separate equality demands made by the London 2012: Justice for Women movement.

The demands included 3 demands against gender discrimination.

  • Parity: Equal numbers of male and female Olympic disciplines and events
  • Decision-making bodies: apply immediately a minimum quota of 20% women’s representation and set parity objectives
  • Homage and visibility: the IOC President should give the gold medal to both the male and the female marathon winners, and not only to the male winner

Three demands against sexual segregation.

  • No more male-only delegations
  • Competitors and officials must not be allowed to wear politico-religious symbols
  • IOC should no longer support gender the segregated games for women organized by Tehran

One demand to build a better world of equality and inclusion.

  • No more stereotypes (sexism, homophobia, transphobia), separation of Olympics / Paralympics, and end prostitution around the Olympics

“Gender discrimination exists in athletics, canoeing, rowing, wrestling, shooting, and boxing,” said Peter Tatchell, who’s human rights foundation – the Peter Tachell Foundation is supporting London 2012: Justice for Women.

“There are more events for men than for women. This means that men have the opportunity to win more Olympic medals than their female counterparts. The Olympic Charter outlaws discrimination in sport but these provisions are being violated with impunity. The IOC does not enforce the Olympic Charter. Discrimination at London 2012 is being condoned at the highest levels of the IOC,” said Tatchell.

Some events, especially awards, at this year’s summer Olympics are excluding women.

“The IOC president will present the gold medal to the winner of the men’s marathon but not to the winner of the women’s marathon, which symbolises to the world that the men’s marathon is deemed more prestigious than the women’s marathon. This is an insult to women everywhere,” added Tatchell.

While the Olympic activities open in London with a show that includes a parody film showing James Bond movie star Daniel Craig and the Queen Elizabeth II of England parachuting into the Olympic coliseum on Friday, women from Saudi Arabia and Iran are being asked to conform to tightened rules to participate in the events.

“Saudi Arabia’s Olympic committee has ruled that women athletes must shroud their bodies head to toe and be accompanied by male guardians at all times. Iran has gender segregation in sport and forces women athletes to cover their entire bodies, even if they do not want to,” outlined Tatchell. “No woman who lives in Saudi Arabia is being allowed to compete in the Olympics.”

“The IOC tolerates gender discrimination by competing nations and their National Olympic Committees (NOCs) by not requiring them to comply with the equality provisions of the Olympic Charter. Some of the additional events for men are based on the sexist assumption that women are the weaker sex. These male-only events include the 50 km walk and the decathlon,” Tatchell continued.

Outlining that participating nations are not being held responsible to comply with the IOC charter, advocates for women in global sports, including the European Women’s Lobby are concerned that clear discrimination exists within the IOC system. In more than 150 separate participating countries, self identified lesbian, intersex and transgender athletes are also suffering as they are forced to hide their sexuality in order to be selected as representatives for their country’s Olympic team.

“…otherwise they risk not only non-selection but also employment discrimination, police harassment and possibly imprisonment. The same discrimination applies to transgender and inter-sex athletes,” outlines the London 2012: Justice for Women movement. “This gender marginalisation, discrimination and exclusion means that in many countries women have few opportunities to represent their country at London 2012, regardless of how talented they are.”

On July 26, Mr Tomas Sithole, Director of International Cooperation and Development of the International Olympic Committee, met with the organisers of “London 2012: Justice for women” to listen and bring the more of the message of the women to the IOC. During the meeting a discussion about religious dress for athletes competing in Olympic events was brought up in relation to women who wear the hijab. Opinions about the appropriateness of women athletes wearing religious dress during competitive events was split by a contrast in thoughts approving and disapproving by some members of the IOC.

“The IOC’s failure to demand that participating nations comply with the Olympic Charter has resulted in an Olympics that is not a level playing field and is far from  equal,” stressed Peter Tatchell in support of the European Women’s Lobby efforts to bring gender justice to the Olympic games for 2012.


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