Last night, The Freilich Project for the Study of Bigotry welcomed Associate Professor Kate Seear, of Monash University, to present the 2019 Alice Tay Lecture in Law & Human Rights.
The Alice Tay Lecture series was established to remember the life of Professor Alice Tay, who was an accomplished legal scholar at the University of Sydney, President of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission from 1998 to 2003, and a much valued member of the Freilich Foundation's advisory board before her death in early 2004. Dr Seear said it was an honour to follow in the footsteps of such a "feisty woman" and that her lecture would honour a number of other feisty women.
Assoc. Prof. Seear's lecture focused on the topic of human rights and sport. She drew on a number of cases, including those of Bahrainian footballer and refugee Hakeem Al-Araibi and South African runner Caster Semenya, to tease out some of the complexities presented when sport intersects with rights. Describing sport as a reflection of broader society, Dr Seear argued that "sport has the power to shape understandings, particularly of what it means to be human".
Dr. Seear acknowledged that the right to participate in leisure activities, including sports, without being discriminated against, was a feature of a number of international human rights instruments. Such rights, however, were not absolute and international sporting bodies have sought to balance the rights of individual athletes against those of other athletes and to interpret those rights within the context of ideas about fairness or the "spirit" or "integrity" of sport. Recent rulings in respect to Caster Semenya take place, Seear argued, within the context of a long history of sporting organisations deliberating over what it means to be a woman, and setting terms for who is eligible to compete as an athlete. Cases like those of Caster Semenya are therefore significant on a number of fronts, with broader implications for human rights in sport, for women in sport, and for insights into "what sport thinks it means to be human".
The audio of the lecture is available on the Experience ANU Soundcloud site.