Advocacy groups are calling for the heads of two international handball governing federations to step down due to “blatant sexism” after the women’s Norwegian beach handball team was fined for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms at the European championships in July.
The European Handball Federation (EHF) fined the Norwegian team $1,770 after players broke uniform requirements implemented by the International Handball Federation (IHF).
Beach handball is among the sports under consideration for the 2024 Summer Olympics.
After the fine was handed down, there was much outcry across the globe, including from the Norwegian Handball Association, who offered to pay the fine, and even from singer Pink, who tweeted on July 24, “I’m VERY proud of the Norwegian female beach handball team FOR PROTESTING THE VERY SEXIST RULES ABOUT THEIR “uniform.” The European handball federation SHOULD BE FINED FOR SEXISM. Good on ya, ladies. I’ll be happy to pay your fines for you. Keep it up.”
IHF president Hassan Moustafa and EHF President Michael Wiederer have been asked to resign by at least seven athletic associations for “have established an embarrassing point of no return regarding their image as international sports institutions” due to the bikini bottom requirement.
Team members Tonya Lurstaad and Julia Bird told ITV’s Lorraine there is “no good reason” why the women on the team should be required to wear bikini bottoms instead of shorts, and said of their decision to violate the dress code rule, “We wanted to make a statement and change the regulation.”
“This is a blatantly sexist custom that needs to be eliminated,” Luisa Rizzitelli, the president of Assist, an organization that promotes and defends the rights of female athletes, said.
Rizzitelli said the IHF’s clothing requirements “shouldn’t mean exploiting the body of a woman” and added, “Not only did they not immediately drop the rule [after the incident with Norway], but they confirmed the fine – that’s the shameful thing.”
IHF rules state that female players must wear tops and bikini bottoms, while male players wear tank tops and shorts “that are not too baggy” but “should be 10 centimeters above the kneecap.”
(Ilhar Tukhbatov/Epsilon/Getty Images)
The Norwegian team posted a photo that shows the stark contrast between the women’s and men’s team uniforms:
It seems the issue is under consideration for change by handball governing bodies. The IHF told the Guardian that “a proposal for new uniforms could be presented to the body’s council in November.”
“The EHF is committed to bring this topic forward in the interest of its member federations, however it must also be said that a change of the rules can only happen at IHF level,” EHF spokesman Andrew Barringer said in an email to the Daily Mail.