Equality Australia warns rugby league of human rights risk

21 June 2022 – Human rights organisation, Equality Australia has today warned the International Rugby League and other sport governing bodies considering blanket bans on women who are trans competing against other women that they risk violating fundamental human rights principles.    

“Blanket bans on women who are trans playing against other women risk violating international human rights principles of non-discrimination, which require such policies to start from a place of inclusion unless an exclusion can be justified as proportionate to any risks identified,” said Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia. 

“FINA failed to meet that standard, and the Rugby League’s ban also fails to do so, despite it being temporary. 

The group characterised the ban as pre-emptive and urged the International Rugby League to ensure transparency of evidence and to prioritise consultation in the development of its policy.  

“International Rugby League and other sporting bodies must consult with affected people and provide a detailed explanation of the evidence they are relying upon before they exclude players from the sports they love,” said Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia.   

“Given the small number of trans athletes, the international principle of proportionality justifies taking a case-by-case approach – rather than imposing a blunt and harmful ban on everyone, no matter their differences. 

“As sporting bodies consider their positions, they must put the human rights of all athletes front and centre, paying special consideration to the rights of trans people to be able to compete fairly at an elite level with others of their gender to the maximum extent possible. 

“The fact is that women’s bodies – like all human bodies – are diverse. For powerful international sporting bodies such as FINA or International Rugby League to determine that only a particular type of woman can compete against other women sets a dangerous precedent, increasing discrimination against trans women.”   

The organisation yesterday issued a joint statement with LGBTIQ+ sporting inclusion group Pride in Sport, calling on FINA to place its policy under immediate review, raising concerns it will increase discrimination against trans and intersex people and potentially expose intersex children to the further risk of so-called ‘sex normalisation’ procedures without their consent.  

FINA’s policy forces all elite athletes to undergo a compulsory assessment to determine their chromosomal sex as a precondition for their participation in elite swimming, further potentially breaching human rights to privacy and prohibitions on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. 

“All women deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, no matter who they are, whether they’re trans or not, and regardless of their innate sex characteristics,” said Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia.  

“FINA’s ban will have impacts on the human rights of all athletes, but it will pose specific and serious risks of harm to intersex women and effectively exclude most trans women from competing at an elite level in a sport they love. It is completely unacceptable, particularly when there are no known trans women currently competing in elite swimming.” 

Media Contact: Tara Ravens 0408 898 154, tara.ravens@equalityaustralia.org.au