Gymnastics chiefs have come under fire after telling pubescent girls in a competition to wear “tight underwear” during competitions claiming “you should be able to see that she is a woman.”
The row broke out when local MPs Tatiana Lurati and Gina La Mantia from the Swiss Social Democrats said they were outraged at guidelines sent to young girls competing in gymnastic events from the Ticino Gymnastics Association.
The two said that male competitors taking part in gymnastic events will have the option of wearing long or short trousers depending on the category they were performing in, while in contrast female competitors had to wear a costume that ensured the maximum view of their leg possible and shorts are forbidden.
The two are councillors for the party in the Italian-speaking Swiss canton of Ticino and said they decided to complain after seeing local guidelines sent out by the Ticino Gymnastics Association demanding “high-cut bodysuits and tight panties”.
The pair requested the regional government look into whether this was sexist, saying it was particularly bad for young girls in the early stages of adolescent growth and identity development.
The move was backed by Ursula Nakamura from the Swiss Women’s Rights Association who said she accepted that clothing should always be suitable for the relevant sport, but added the same rules should apply for males as females.
The two councillors noticed that there seemed to be inconsistencies in the rules for men and women, as well as pointing out that internationally it was also the case that women were not allowed to wear shorts when taking part in gymnastic competitions.
Gymnast Chiara,13, told local media: “The costumes we wear barely cover our buttocks, and you can really see our breasts much too clearly.”
She complained that even when competing in competitions where there were also male competitors they still had to wear the same outfits, and added there are no exceptions made for when a woman was menstruating to allow her to wear shorts instead.
Chiara said that at one competition where she had broken the rules and worn shorts because she was menstruating, she had had points deducted and been demoted from the podium as a result. She said: “It was really humiliating. Everybody saw that I must have had my period (because I was wearing shorts).”
Chiara’s mother, identified only by her first name Angela, said: “I find it a bit extreme that the girls have to put glue on their backsides so that during extreme exercises their costume doesn’t slide between their buttocks. I feel that girls and women are being clearly sexually discriminated against.”
According to local media, Angela reported a 35-year-old gymnastics coach who had touched her daughter. She said: “Later, the police arrested him for child pornography and found that he had a ‘relationship’ with several girls from the gymnastics club.”
Fulvio Castelletti, technical president of the Chiasso Gymnastics Federation, said: “For gymnasts it is perfectly normal to wear outfits like this. At the end of the day a woman’s body is a wonderful thing. You should be able to see that she is a woman.”