Human Rights Violations in International Sport
A film written and directed by
Emmy-Nominated Canadian Filmmaker and Olympian Phyllis Ellis
World Broadcast Premiere
International Women’s Day
March 8, 2023, 9:00pm EST on TVO
Repeats March 12, 10:00pm
Award-winning filmmaker and Canadian Olympian, Phyllis Ellis delivers a damning exploration of “sex testing,” a deceptive and harmful practice in international women’s sport, that has for over 80 years sabotaged the careers and impacted thousands of international female athletes, notably women of colour.
“How do you castigate a [group] of persons as insufficiently human?” asks the jaw-dropping documentary feature film. “By throwing their gender into doubt.”
Ellis profiles, among others, Caster Semenya, an Olympic champion runner from South Africa whose success prompted the IAAF (now World Athletics) to wage an investigative assault challenging her championship and leaking her medical records to the international media, resulting in the staggering and insulting headlines around the world that she was a “biological man.” Ms Semenya was only 18 years old.
Category: Woman is bolstered with footage that underscores – to infuriating effect – the unrepentant racism and misogyny that many high-performance female athletes have suffered with career ending results and horrific medical procedures.
In addition to Semenya, Ellis introduces Ugandan champion Annet Negesa, who is the first female athlete in the world to speak publicly about an invasive, career-ending surgery (encouraged by international sport officials) a gonadectomy to reduce her naturally occurring higher testosterone and a clitoridectomy, a cosmetic procedure that had nothing to do with sport at all. Annet never competed again. She fights to defend this gross violation of her human rights.
“Once your gender is questioned, once you are publicly humiliated, people don’t forget.” says athlete activist, Dr. Payoshni Mitra.
Category: Woman tracks the devastating medical, social, cultural, emotional and economic impact that such rulings can have on the lives and careers of female athletes from the Global South. As such, the documentary serves as an invaluable window into the high stakes world of sports, equality, gender and “science.”
Following her award-winning, Emmy-nominated film, Toxic Beauty, Ellis exposes once again, an industry controlled by men putting women’s lives at risk through racist regulations, gender discrimination and human rights violations. Sex-testing remains, although in a more nefarious way, and continues under the guise of fair play.
“What is fair play, if it is not inclusion, prevention of harm, non-discrimination, human rights and bodily autonomy?, asks Ellis. “We must take action and demand from the sporting world at all levels to end sexual, physical and psychological abuse, sex-testing and call out any form of misogyny, racism and discrimination,” says Ellis.
ABOUT Phyllis Ellis: Her Story
In 1985, Phyllis Ellis was at a serious crossroads in sport and Former Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, Iona Campagnolo offered her sage advice: “Don’t leave the Olympic Team, you can not affect change from the outside, your greatest power and your loudest voice is if you stay.” Phyllis left her sport, not only as an athlete but as Vice Chair of the Athlete’s Advisory Council for the Canadian Olympic Association, (COC) – the physical and sexual abuse, and abuse of power, intolerable. Now, 40-years later as a filmmaker, she is deeply immersed and back on the inside of international sport as witness to the courage of the champions in Category: Women. Phyllis not only comes forward with this important film, but lends her own story to the conversation, encouraging all athletes to stand in solidarity with athletes from the Global South, to create a sporting world free of sexual, physical and psychological abuse, sex testing, misogyny, racism and gender discrimination. Do no harm.