Rugby league bans trans women from from international matches ‘until further research’

Trans women have been temporarily banned from playing international rugby league as the sport’s global governing body launches a review.

The International Rugby League (IRL) has said that trans women will not be able to play in sanctioned women’s matches pending “further research”.

The announcement came on Tuesday (21 June), less than 48 hours after the swimming governing body announced it would ban all trans women who had gone through any element of male puberty from elite women’s races.

Rugby league bosses said they will finalise a “trans women inclusion policy” by 2023.

“Until further research is completed to enable the IRL to implement a formal transgender inclusion policy, male-to-female [trans women] players are unable to play in sanctioned women’s international rugby league matches,” the IRL said.

This means trans women will be blanket banned from events such as the Women’s Rugby League World Cup in October and November.

The IRL now joins World Rugby, which governs sport of the rugby union, in banning all trans women from the sport.

The eight teams taking part in the Rugby League World Cup – Australia, Brazil, Canada, Cook Islands, England, France, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea – will be asked to give their opinion on the new policy.

“The IRL 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,” the IRL said.

The review was initiated to “balance the individual’s right to participate … against perceived risk to other participants”.

The IRL added its decision was influenced by “several relevant developments in world sport”, including the International Olympic Committee saying each sport federation must decide whether athletes “may be at a disproportionate advantage compared with their peers”.

Many other international sports federation are reviewing their trans inclusion policies amid a furious manufactured debate over trans women playing sports with cis women.

The IRL’s move comes two days after FINA, which administers international competitions in water sports, effectively banned trans women from elite women’s sports.

Only trans women who can prove they have “not experienced male puberty” before the age of 12 will be allowed to compete following the body’s vote on Sunday (19 June).

For those unable to do this, they will be banished to a new “open” category.

Elsewhere, new regulations introduced by the International Cycling Union (UCI) on 16 June now make it even harder for trans cyclists to compete.

The new regulations by doubling the period a trans woman must record on specified low testosterone levels from one to two years and halves the maximum permitted testosterone level.

World football governing body FIFA and World Athletics said Monday they are both reviewing their trans eligbility rules, ESPN reported.

Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia stressed that given the small number of trans athletes, especially at an elite level, a case-by-case approach should be adopted rather than a blanket ban.

“Blanket bans on women who are trans playing against other women risks violating international human rights principles of non-discrimination, which require such policies to start from a place of inclusion,” Brown said.

“The fact is that women’s bodies – like all human bodies – are diverse,” she added.

“For powerful international sporting bodies such as FINA or International Rugby League to determine that only a particular type of woman can compete against other women sets a dangerous precedent, increasing discrimination against trans women.”

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