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Submission to the Integrity Sport and Recreation Bill Save Women’s Sport Australasia

Integrity in sport means that athletes, supporters, and fans can participate and celebrate sport, confident in the knowledge that they are part of a safe, fair and inclusive environment.

The Right Hon. Grant Robertson, NZ's Minister of Sport, has stated that this bill will help protect the wellbeing of participants and the fairness of competition. We agree that more needs to be done to ensure everyone who participates in sport are treated fairly and can be kept safe.

Save Women’s Sport Australasia support the creation of the Integrity Sport and Recreation Commission:

  • To be an independent body, separate from Sport NZ and High Performance Sport NZ, to set standards that ensure there is a safe, and appropriate, and timely mechanism for people to have complaints investigated and to be resolved.

  • To enhance integrity within sport and physical recreation to protect and promote the safety and well-being of participants, and to ensure the fairness of competition.

  • To safeguard young children involved in sport.

  • To assist grassroots organisations, helping with expert advice and pathways for resolution to deal with disputes.

However, we cannot support the Bill as it is currently drafted because:

The Bill appears to undermine the existing provisions in the Human Rights Act that provide for single sex sports

  • Clause 12(b) states that one of the two objectives of the Commission is “promoting participants’ trust and confidence in integrity within the sport and physical recreation sector”. The protection of the integrity of the female category is central to the achievement of that objective.

  • However, Bill as drafted makes no reference to how it will interact with longstanding provisions in the Human Rights Act 1993 that provide for single sex sport. Specifically, section 49 of the HRA provides for sex based separation of sport where strength, stamina or physique are relevant. This provision is specifically there to provide for fairness, inclusion, and opportunities for female athletes and players at all levels of sport. Sex specific physiological and biological differences between males and females are proven by science. These give males, on average, a significant advantage in almost all sports.

  • This Bill appears to set up a situation in clause 14(2) whereby male people who say they have a feminine gender identity could take a complaint of discrimination against a sporting organisation who refuses them access into women’s or girls sport. At best this Bill creates a confusion as it is not clear how the Human Rights Act provisions would now apply. However, given the Government’s already existing track record of saying that gender identity is more important than sex it seems more likely that it is using this Bill to undermine the provisions in the Human Rights Act that support the provision of sporting categories for females only. If that is the Government’s intent then they should be honest and present proposals to change the Human Rights Act so this can be debated properly and honestly.

  • If it is not the Government’s intent then an additional clause should be added to clause 12 that specify that provisions in this Bill are subservient to the section 49 of the Human Rights Act, that all sporting bodies will continue to be free to provide single sex sport where eligibility is determined by sex, not gender identity.

  • An independent poll undertaken by Curia research showed that the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders (67%) do not support male people being able to self-identify into women’s sport[1]. As such, fulfilling the Commission’s objective of “promoting participants’ trust and confidence in integrity within the sport and physical recreation sector” requires the protection of single sex sport for women and girls.

The Bill could undermine safeguarding and does not properly recognise the historical and contemporary discrimination against female athletes

  • If gender identity is prioritised over biological sex in an integrity code, then the safe guarding of girls and women (females), in particular, cannot be guaranteed. There are already reported cases overseas where female athletes have felt intimidated, unsafe, and their privacy compromised by allowing male athletes who assert a feminine gender identity access to their changing rooms. Conflict has also been created by those same males demanding the right to female single sex spaces. For example, Hannah Mouncey, an Australian transgender identified male handball player quit the team after they were requested not to shower and change with female players.

  • That female athletes, whose interests are surely as important as those of any other group in society, and who have suffered historical discrimination in terms of funding, support, and status, and who have significant interests in ensuring that sex remains a relevant basis on which to determine sports categories, are not explicitly mentioned in clauses 16 and 20 as relevant stakeholders who should be consulted with.

  • To not explicitly specify female athletes alongside other relevant stakeholders would be a continuation of contemporary discrimination. For example, Sport New Zealand refused to survey or consult with female athletes and players on the development of their transgender inclusion guidelines, despite the safety, fairness and opportunities of female athletes being significantly impacted.

Other concerns

  • The Commission’s board members will be appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Minister for Sport and Recreation, which could see appointments made to develop ‘integrity codes’ that are politically motivated. E.g. the Labour Government’s prioritisation of inclusion of males over fairness for females in sport could see the development of integrity code that would allow and encourage a male who identifies as a woman to take a sports organisation to the Commission for NOT letting them play in the female category.

  • 'Integrity' is not defined, therefore we believe there should be a set of principles that all integrity codes developed must be in line with.

  • This bill centralises control of sport and recreation under a Commission. This gives individual sports organisations little/no power over how they can deal with disputes and will likely lead to disconnect and distrust between yet another Wellington based sports bureaucracy and frontline regional volunteers.

Recommendations for changes to the Bill

We recommend that the Select Committee:

  1. Insert a new definition be included in section 4 of “sex” which specifies that sex refers to biological sex at birth[2], not gender identity and defines “female” as a person of the female sex as observed at birth.

  2. Insert a new clause 14(3) which specifies that nothing in section 14(2) shall be interpreted to undermine section 49 of the Human Rights Act 1993 which provides for the exclusion of persons of one sex from participation in any competitive sporting activity in which the strength, stamina, or physique of competitors is relevant and that the Commission must act consistent with this provision.

  3. Amend clause 16 to include female participants as a relevant stakeholder: The Commission must establish effective means of seeking the views of participants, Māori, and other relevant stakeholders, including female players, Pacific peoples, disabled people, children and young people, and rainbow communities.

  4. Amend clause 20 to include female participants as a relevant stakeholder: Before making an integrity code, the Commission must consult participants, Māori, other relevant stakeholders (including female players, Pacific peoples, disabled people, children and young people, and rainbow communities), and the Privacy Commissioner on the proposed code.

[2] Save Women’s Sport notes that the very small number of people (approximately 0.02% of live births) born with differences of sexual development (referred to in this Bill as diverse sex characteristics, sometimes known as intersex) that make determining their sex more complex than observation in utero or at birth are still all either female or male. In fact, almost all DSDs are sex specific.



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