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“Born This Way”: New Campaign Bolsters Support for Caster Semenya

A new petition is going around as the South African athlete continues to challenge the World Athletics ruling preventing her from competing.

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On June 2, Unilever beauty brand LUX voiced its support for Caster Semenya, the South African Olympic gold medalist, in a new campaign titled “Born This Way.”

Semenya, 30, has a genetic condition where she produces testosterone in higher levels than what is considered the normal range for women. The condition is known as hyperandrogenism. Her testosterone levels have put her at odds with the World Athletics board, which has disallowed her from competing at the Tokyo Olympic Games in track events from the 400 meters to one mile, unless she suppresses those levels with medication or surgery. 

At the time of the ruling in 2019, Semenya said in a written statement, “I am a woman and a world-class athlete. The IAAF [The International Association of Athletics Federation, now World Athletics] will not drug me or stop me from being who I am.” 

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She has taken her case to the European Court of Human Rights, but the matter is unlikely to be settled before the start of the Tokyo Games on July 23. Semenya has yet to qualify for the Games in the events she is allowed, namely the 5000m.

The LUX campaign includes an animated video highlighting Semenya’s plight, a petition to overturn the World Athletics Ruling, and a hashtag (#IStandWithCaster) to invite others to join the conversation and show their support for the South African athlete. 

The animated video opens with the quote, “I am a woman and I am fast.” Alongside Semenya, it highlights athlete depictions of elite powerhouses like swimmer Michael Phelps and gymnast Simone Biles, while the narrator explains that “Athletes are the superheroes of our time…They’re born with special gifts. Extraordinary biology. Yet none of them were ever banned from competing.” It continues to ask the question: Why ban Caster Semenya?

“It makes me very happy to see brands like LUX who fearlessly stand on the side of what is right.” said Semenya. “My case is but one amongst many experiences that can be heard and felt by women all over the world.” 

Among other large entities that are trying to help Semenya, the South African Parliament passed a motion condemning the World Athletics ruling and deemed it an “injustice and violation of human rights,” resolving to do everything in its power to assist Semenya in her fight. 

Semenya has said on numerous occasions that this battle is not only about her, but for future athletes who might face similar discrimination. “I encourage everyone to unapologetically claim who they are and never waiver, no matter what society says,” she said.

Over 28,000 people have already signed the petition. Join them here.

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