UN pushes back against Biden transgender proposal

Dec 29, 2023

Including transgender issues in discrimination laws would reportedly have “detrimental” effects on biological women

Rule changes to sexual discrimination legislation proposed by the US government designed to prevent the banning of transgender athletes in schools and colleges would violate the rights of biological women, a United Nations (UN) expert, Reem Alsalem, warned on Wednesday.

Under the landmark ‘Title IX’ legislation passed by the US Congress in 1972, it was ruled that sexual discrimination against women in education must be eradicated. It also stated that women should have the same educational rights and opportunities as their male counterparts.

In April, the US Department of Education proposed modifying the legislation so that no school or college that receives federal funding can impose broad rules that categorically ban transgender athletes from participating in sports that match their gender identity. Instead, it said such issues should be decided on a case-by-case basis.

The proposed amendment would also lead to the removal of separate facilities for men and women, including bathrooms and changing rooms, in some instances.

But on Wednesday, Reem Alsalem, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, argued that the proposed changes to Title IX would have a negative impact on biological women.

“The proposed Title IX rule changes would have detrimental effects on the participation of biological women and girls in sports,” Alsalem said in a news release. It would, she added, deny women “the opportunity to compete fairly, resulting in the loss of athletic and scholarship opportunities.”

Furthermore, Alsalem argued that an altered Title IX would “lead to the loss of privacy” for female athletes and cause “heightened exposure to sexual harassment and voyeurism.”

“If the proposed changes are adopted, they would contravene the United States’ international human rights obligations and commitments concerning the prevention of all forms of violence and discrimination against women on the basis of sex,” she added.

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The participation of transgender athletes in female sporting categories has become a hot-button topic over the past several years. Perhaps most notorious is the case of the American collegiate swimmer Lia Thomas, who, in 2022, became the first openly transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I national championship. Before transitioning, Thomas had previously ranked 462 in the male category.

However, despite media attention on Thomas’ eligibility to compete against biologically-born women, the athlete’s right to compete was backed in an open letter by 300 current and former collegiate swimmers.

In the letter, they issued “support for Lia Thomas, and all transgender college athletes, who deserve to be able to compete in safe and welcoming athletic environments.”

A final decision on the possible changes is expected in 2024.


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