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“I’ve lower my hair. I’ve modified my dressing fashion so that folks received’t know who I’m. I’m able to put on churidar, to put on saree, to develop my hair lengthy, plait it and even preserve flowers in it. However are you able to give me again my medal? Are you prepared to do this?” asks Santhi Soundarajan in a 2016 interview with Fountain Ink Journal.
In 2006, Santhi Soundarajan grew to become the primary Tamil girl to win an Asian Video games medal. Belonging to a Dalit household from Pudukottai, Tamil Nadu, she has received 12 Worldwide medals for India and 50 medals for her residence state. However after her victory in 2006, Santhi Soundarajan was subjected to a disrespectful and invasive scrutiny of her organic intercourse.
Sex tests, often known as gender willpower exams, for sporting occasions grew to become a prevalent follow in 1950 after the Worldwide Affiliation of Athletics Federation (IAAF) started bodily examination, often known as “nude parades” of feminine athletes. The explanation for these exams was the worry of Soviet and Communist international locations sending males within the guise of girls to compete in sporting occasions. This was backed by the flawed concept that girls couldn’t presumably defeat males if males began competing in opposition to ladies. In her ebook Seeing Like A Feminist, Nivedita Menon talks in regards to the interesting case of the Polish sprinter Stella Walsh and the American sprinter Helen Stephens. Within the 1936 Olympics, Stephens beat Walsh (who was thought-about the quickest girl on the planet) and set a brand new report. It was claimed that no girl may run this quick and shortly, Stephens needed to bear a intercourse take a look at. The intercourse take a look at proved that Stephens was in truth, a girl.
Additionally learn: Caster Semenya Case: The Bias Against Women’s ‘Manly’ Bodies In Sports
Nonetheless, 44 years later Stella Walsh died and her post-mortem report said that Walsh had a Y chromosome which as per the intercourse take a look at made her a person, though, the presence of male organs in her physique made her an intersex athlete. So the one who misplaced was ‘a person’ whereas the one who received was ‘a girl’. Menon makes use of this case to level out the flawed sense of worry and patriarchal logic on which the intercourse exams are based.
Initially solely a bodily examination of the physique and genitals would decide the intercourse of an individual. Nonetheless, from the 1968 Mexico Olympics onwards chromosome exams have been used to find out the organic intercourse. Whereas no man has ever been found masking as a girl by the intercourse exams, a number of ladies have been disbarred from competing owing to chromosome variations. In 1999 blanket intercourse exams for feminine athletes have been abolished however they proceed for use in particular instances.
A kind of instances is of Santhi Soundarajan. When Soundarajan returned from Doha, the place the 2006 Asian Video games have been held, she was stunned to study that she had failed her sex test. The identical intercourse take a look at which had been carried out after her victory with out giving her any correct info or receiving her correct consent for causes which stay publicly unknown. There have been speculations that some officers or rivals reported in opposition to Santhi Soundarajan which is what led to the intercourse take a look at, however they continue to be speculations at finest. The intercourse take a look at decided that Soundarajan didn’t have feminine sexual traits and therefore she was barred from competing in any sporting occasion and her medal was taken again from her. Her physique grew to become a floor for well-liked dialogue throughout media homes and all people had a closing say about her physique besides Santhi Soundarajan herself.
One of the vital controversial elements of sex-verification exams is the truth that it’s assumed that solely two combos of chromosomes – XX for feminine and XY for male – can exist in a physique. This, nevertheless, isn’t true. There may be a number of chromosome variations current in a single physique. A lady, due to this fact, can have the Y chromosome cohabiting with the X chromosome. It was later decided that Soundarajan had partial androgen insensitivity syndrome (PAIS). In PAIS, a partial unresponsiveness of the cell to the presence of androgenic hormones impairs the event of male genitalia in a creating fetus. In some instances of PAIS an individual can have underdeveloped male genitalia. In different instances, an individual can have feminine genitals and breasts.
Nonetheless, the very basis on which intercourse exams have been constructed neglects and excludes every kind of variations limiting itself to a chromosome binary and gender suspicions which come up out of a patriarchal understanding of what gender and organic intercourse are. The response Santhi Soundarajan obtained from the state and the society after her failed intercourse take a look at was damaging to her psychological well being. She was known as a cheat and shunned from the sporting group. Quickly after, she skilled extreme despair and attempted suicide. It was in 2013, after large effort, that Soundarajan was in a position to turn into an athletic coach. In 2016, her plea to obtain again her medal went viral and obtained a lot public support. Nonetheless, 14 years later, Soundarajan has nonetheless not been in a position to get again her medal – a logo of her achievements and dignity.
One other identify that’s related within the discourse round intercourse exams is of athlete Dutee Chand. Chand was barred from competing in ladies’s competitions in 2014 when exams proved that she had hyperandrogenism, that’s, her testosterone ranges have been increased than a mean girl athlete’s as per the rules of IAAF. This case was, nevertheless, taken up by The Court docket of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The Court docket questioned IAAF’s tips and requested whether or not increased testosterone ranges had any reference to higher efficiency. Many athletes reminiscent of British athlete Paula Radcliffe supported the IAAF tips and are of the opinion that increased testosterone ranges are an undue benefit.
Apparently, as Menon factors out in her ebook Seeing Like A Feminist, there are numerous sportspersons who’ve hormonal or genetic variations that carry them benefit of their sport. A first-rate instance of that is Michael Phelps. The swimmer has Marfan syndrome – the signs of which permit Phelps to have a physique proportion which cuts by water extra simply. It has additionally been recognized that Phelps’ physique produces half the lactic acid than a standard athlete. Lactic acid produces fatigue and therefore, Phelps has the aptitude to do higher than different swimmers. Each of those are organic benefits that play in Phelps’ favour. But, relating to feminine athletes reminiscent of Santhi Soundarajan and the organic variations that will or is probably not advantageous to them of their sport, there appears to be extra questioning and fewer acceptance. As Erin Buzuvis says in her essay Caster Semenya and The Myth of a Level Playing Field, “Saying that nobody can use pure benefit is antithetical to sport.”
Dutee Chand’s case brings a significant query to the forefront: does a rise in testosterone degree make one much less of a girl? The CAS dominated in favour of Dutee Chand who’s now allowed to take part in observe and area ladies’s occasions. When requested to restrict her testosterone ranges by medication or surgical procedure, Chand replied “I wish to stay who I’m and compete once more.”
Additionally learn: The Horror Of Sex Verification In Sports
The sporting world is probably one the place the gender binary of male/feminine is probably the most seen, excluding all intersex and transgender folks. The patriarchal values of ‘males are stronger/higher/extra bodily succesful’ continues to be the prevalent narrative for conducting intercourse exams. Nonetheless, very similar to all of the logics of patriarchy, this argument too is filled with crevices and fissures from which emerge figures – Santhi Soundarajan, Caster Semenya, Martinez-Patiño, Dutee Chand, and so on. – that problem the very existence of this binary.