I make this intervention on behalf of Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway.
Sports bring a large range of benefits, including the thrill of competition, physical and psychological benefits leading to longer, healthier and possibly even happier lives. Sports can be a very important and easily accessible mean for many people to entertainment and to social and physical development.
Unfortunately, some human beings are excluded from taking part in sports, or discriminated against while participating in sports. This is particularly the case for women. There are still countries represented in the UN that never have sent a female athlete to the Olympics. While this is a striking example, the discrimination and limitations put on women and girls from taking part in sports in schools, in gyms, in sports clubs, in open air, is even more important since it excludes half of the society from enjoying all the benefits of sports. This is for example done through denying girls physical education in state schools, through licensing policies for gyms and through allowing discriminatory practices in sports clubs, hindering women to train to compete. This is detrimental to the individual, but also negative for the larger society.
Some country situations are worse than others in this respect. These require the attention of the IOC and Olympic hosts. We would, however, like to underline that discrimination of women in sports is not an issue only relevant for a handful of countries. This is an issue with relevance for most countries, including ours, because discrimination in sports often reflects the social challenges of the larger society.
The Universal Declaration on Human Rights underlines that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. The IOC charter asserts that sport is a right for everyone and bans discrimination in practising sports on the basis of gender. All experience shows that bringing boys and girls together through sport at an early age can change the way the concept of gender is perceived in society and in the long run help promote gender equality.
When we are discussing the application of the Universal Declaration on Human rights in sports, we believe that the discrimination of women should be the key issue. We also believe that addressing this issue cannot be done by talking, but by walking the talk.
Our question to the panel (including Sir Keith Mills, Deputy Chair of the London 2012 Organising Committee and Mr. Carlos Nusman, President of Rio 2016) are:
- What are the future Olympic hosts doing to challenge those countries that are discriminating against women in sports,
- Should participation of countries in the Olympics be conditioned on ending government discrimination against women and girls in sports.
- Which role do the panellists believe that the UN and the Human Rights Council should play in putting this question on the agenda.