Ban on Transgendered female athletes


    In News

    • Recently, transgender women have been barred from competing in the female category by World Athletics (WA)(the international governing body for track and field)

    Major Points 

    • WA has followed the path of FINA, the international swimming federation, which enforced a similar ban in June last year.
    • The ban & research:
      • Transgender women who have experienced male puberty will not be able to compete in the female competition after March 31 this year. 
      • However, the World Athletics Council has set up a working group to conduct research “to further consider the issue of transgender inclusion”.
    • Previous rules:
      • Under the previous rules, there was no blanket ban, but transgender women had to reduce the amount of blood testosterone to 5 nanomoles per litre (nmol/L) and maintain this level for 12 months in order to participate.
        • WA had previously come up with the ‘preferred option’ for transgender women
        • Instead of a complete ban, WA said it would allow transgender women to compete in the female category but would reduce the blood testosterone limit to below 2.5nmol/L for two years basically cutting it down by half, and doubling the time period before they become eligible to compete.

    Reasons for ban

    • WA focuses on the physical advantages men have over women post-puberty. 
    • The substantial sex difference in sports performance that emerges from puberty onwards means that the only way to achieve the objectives set out is to maintain separate classifications (competition categories) for male and female athletes.
    • Events leading to the decision:
      • The debate has raged since New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard competed in the women’s 87-kg class at the Tokyo Olympics, although she had participated in the men’s category earlier.
      • NCAA swimmer Lia Thomas used hormone replacement therapy and moved from the men’s category to the women’s category. She started breaking records in the IVY League competition before FINA stepped in.

    Other sports with similar bans for transgender female athletes?

    • Rugby:
      • It was World Rugby in 2020 which became the first international sports federation to bar transgender women from female competition. 
      • Following this, Rugby Football League and Rugby Football Union also banned transgender women from female competition.
    • Triathlon:
      • Last year, British Triathlon implemented a similar ban.
    • Olympics:
      • The International Olympic Committee’s Framework on Fairness released in November 2021 stated that “athletes are not excluded solely on the basis of their transgender identity or sex variations”.
      • But the IOC had put the onus on sports federations to put in place rules.


    • The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 defines “Transgender person”, as a person whose gender does not match with the gender assigned to that person at birth and includes trans-man or trans-woman (whether or not such person has undergone Sex Reassignment Surgery or hormone therapy or laser therapy or such other therapy), a person with intersex variations, genderqueer and person having such socio-cultural identities as Kinner, hijra, aravani and jogta.

    The legal status of Transgender Community in India

    • The Supreme Court in National Legal Services Authority (NLSA) v. Union Of India, famously known as the NALSA Case, has directed Centre and State Governments to grant legal recognition of gender identity whether it be male, female or third-gender.
      • Further, it declared that hijras and eunuchs can legally identify as “third gender”.
    • Fundamental Rights:
      • In recognizing the third gender category, the Court recognized that fundamental rights are available to the third gender in the same manner as they are to males and females. 
    • Self-identification:
      • The Court upheld the right of all persons to self-identify their gender.
      • Thus, it held that no third-gender persons should be subjected to any medical examination or biological test which would invade their right to privacy.
    • Socio-Economic Rights: 
      • Recognising third-gender persons as a “socially and educationally backward class of citizens”, entitled to reservations in educational institutions and public employment.

    Challenges faced by Transgender Community:

    • Lack of acknowledgment: 
      • Even in this era of scientific pragmatism and logical empiricism, we see society’s refusal to acknowledge the LGBTQIA+ community on par with the “heteronormals”.
    • Extensive problems:
      • Problems of sexual abuse, familial dysfunction, peer rejection, juvenile delinquency, societal taboo, sexual disharmony, unsafe sexual behaviour and drug abuse are rampant amongst this community while growing up. 
      • Unrecognised marital status, hazards of adoption, housing, property inheritance, difficulty finding regular employment, discrimination and harassment at the workplace, etc., are recurring and diabolical features of their daily lives. 
    • Mental and physical consequences:
      • The mental and physical consequences of these prejudices take a toll on their lives. Ageism and sexual discrimination are other hassles.
      • Increasing evidence points out that depression, suicides, self-harm and substance abuse are twice as common in LGBTQIA+ individuals compared to heterosexual people.
    • Bias & discriminatory attitudes:
      • Even healthcare professionals and institutes show alarmingly high rates of homophobic bias and discriminatory attitudes.

    Initiatives for Transgender Persons in India:

    • SMILE Scheme: The Department of Social Justice & Empowerment launched the Central Sector scheme “SMILE: Support for Marginalised Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise”.
      • This umbrella scheme is designed to provide welfare measures to the Transgender community and the people engaged in the act of begging.
    • Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019:
      • The law passed by the Parliament aims to end discrimination against transgender persons in accessing education, employment and healthcare and recognise the right to self-perceived gender identity.
    • Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020: 
      • It has been framed by the government to give effect to the provisions of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019.
    • National Council for Transgender Persons: 
      • In pursuance of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, the National Council for Transgender Persons has been constituted to advise the Central Government on the formulation and evaluation of policies, programmes, legislation and projects for the welfare of the transgender community.
    • Reservation for the transgender community: 
      • The Union government is planning to bring reservations for the community under the OBC category in employment.
    • National Portal for Transgender Persons:
      • It is a portal by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment which assists persons of the transgender community in applying for a Certificate and Identity card digitally from anywhere in the country.
      • Through the Portal, they can monitor the status of their application which ensures transparency in the process.
    • Garima Greh:
      • The scheme aims to provide shelter to Transgender persons, with basic amenities like shelter, food, medical care and recreational facilities.
      • Besides, it will provide support for the capacity-building/skill development of persons in the Community, which will enable them to lead a life of dignity and respect.

    Conclusion and Way Forward 

    • There is a need to sensitise the society that the community is a part of us and are co-equals.
    • Sensitising law enforcement: There is also a need to sensitise the legal and law enforcement systems towards the challenges of the community.