Caster Semenya looks for R3.4m to fund next court case in Europe

Caster Semenya looks on during her press conference in Sandton on Friday.
Caster Semenya looks on during her press conference in Sandton on Friday.
Image: REUTERS/Alet Pretorius

Caster Semenya and her legal team on Friday appealed for financial assistance to help raise R3.4m needed to fund her next battle at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Semenya won her case against Switzerland at the ECHR last year, but the landlocked nation is appealing, referring the decision to the France-based body’s Grand Chamber, where 15 judges will review the matter on May 15.

Fighting that case would cost $180,000 (R3.4m), said Greg Nott, one of the attorneys who has been representing Semenya since 2009 pro bono. The costs include hiring expert lawyers abroad to fight her case, including one lawyer who is a King’s Counsel.

He estimated the total costs of Semenya’s legal battles abroad were R30m.

Semenya told journalists in Sandton the fight was not about her, but for other women with differences of sex development who are required by World Athletics to lower their naturally occurring high levels of testosterone.

World Athletics has argued intersex athletes have an unfair advantage.

Another of Semenya’s attorneys, Patrick Bracher, reiterated that until the matter had shifted to the ECHR, human rights had not been taken into account.

Neither the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, which heard Semenya’s case against the international federation, nor the Swiss federal court, which handled Semenya’s appeal of the CAS decision, considered human rights.

Two of the three arbitrators at CAS ruled in favour of World Athletics, with one admitting it had been a close call. 

“Intersex is a [congenital] thing. You cannot control nature,” said Semenya, adding her career was basically over, but there were young women athletes from Africa and Asia facing the same battle.

Semenya’s fight started when she burst onto the scene winning gold at the 2009 world championships in Berlin, getting body-shamed by rivals and spectators. But she pushed on, eventually winning over many competitors and a legion of supporters locally and abroad.

“Has dignity not suffered enough?” asked Nott. “Has Caster not suffered enough? Have people in Caster’s position not suffered enough? Those are the questions we are asking.”

Asked what would happen if the money was not raised, Nott replied: “There will be ramifications.”

Commission for Gender Equality chair Nthabiseng Sepanya-Mogale said they had also approached government for assistance.

The account details for people wanting to donate to Semenya’s legal battle are: Ahmed Gani Trust Account, Standard Bank, 200297740, Killarney branch (007205). The Swift code is SBZAZAJJ and “Caster” should be used as the reference.


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