Caster Semenya in Berlin on Wednesday.
(Pic: Michel Langeveld)

South African athlete Caster Semenya won gold at the World Athletics championships in Berlin on Wednesday amidst controversy involving the runner’s sex.

Having won the 800m in 1min 55.45sec, her performance took place under suspicion that she might not be a woman.

The International Association of Athletics Federations had reportedly earlier forced the 18 year old to undergo a DNA test, to establish that she was female.

The results will take several weeks, but until then she is being allowed to compete.

Her coach, Michael Seme, told South Africa’s News24 website: “We understand that people will ask questions because she looks like a man. It’s a natural reaction and it’s only human to be curious.”

The South African Athletics Federation in turn said that it is “completely sure” that Semenya is a woman. “We would not have entered her in the female competition if we had any doubts,” it said in a statement.

Semenya’s mother Dorcus told the UK’s The Telegraph: “I am not even worried about that because I know who and what my child is. Mokgadi Caster is a girl and no one can change that.”

The media frenzy around Semenya’s sex has been slated by gender activists. “The current media and public witch-hunt to prove a person’s sex illustrates how there is no space for a gender non-conformative or gender variant person in our society,” Liesl Theron, Director of Gender DynamiX, the South African transgender rights organisation, told Mambaonline.”

“This proves to be highly problematic in a country where we experience rife hate crimes, specifically those targeted towards black lesbians. Gender DynamiX is of the opinion that homophobia and transphobia’s roots are not in sexual orientation but in gender identity,” she said.

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