Transgender women barred from Int’l Rugby League

Sydney, June 21 (UNI): Transgender athletes have been banned to participate in women’s International Rugby League matches as the global governing body is yet to formulate its ‘comprehensive inclusion policy’, International Rugby League (IRL) said on Tuesday.

It said in a statement, “It is continuing work to review and update rules about transgender participation in women’s international rugby league and will seek to use the upcoming World Cup to help develop a comprehensive inclusion policy. Until further research is completed to enable the IRL to implement a formal transgender inclusion policy, male-to-female (transwomen) players are unable to play in sanctioned women’s international rugby league matches.”

The development came two days after International Swimming Federation (FINA) has voted to effectively ban transgender athletes from competing in women’s elite races. Swimming’s world governing body will explore establishing an “open” category for them in some events as part of its new policy.

The IRL said it last reviewed transgender participation in international rugby league in January-February 2021, considered several relevant developments in world sport.

“In the interests of avoiding unnecessary welfare, legal and reputational risk to International Rugby League competitions, and those competing therein, the IRL believes there is a requirement and responsibility to further consult and complete additional research before finalising its policy”, it said.

The IRL said that it is its responsibility to ‘balance the individual’s right to participate – a long-standing principle of rugby league and at its heart from the day it was established – against perceived risk to other participants, and to ensure all are given a fair hearing.’

The governing body said it will continue to work towards developing a set of criteria, based on best possible evidence, which fairly balance the individual’s right to play with the safety of all participants.

To help achieve this, the IRL will seek to work with the eight Women’s Rugby League World Cup 2021 finalists to obtain data to inform a future transwomen inclusion policy in 2023, which takes into consideration the unique characteristics of rugby league.

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