Handball governing body changes 'sexist' clothing rules after widespread accusations

Beach handball

The International Handball Federation has altered its women’s uniform rules after receiving widespread backlash and accusations of sexism this summer.

During the European Championships in July, the European Handball Federation made headlines for issuing a €1,500 (£1,295) fine to the Norwegian beach national team after the players wore shorts instead of the conventional bikini bottoms.

The EHF described the shorts as “improper clothing”, despite it being regulation for the men to wear them.

The news caused a huge uproar, with many well-known sports people and celebrities speaking out on the issue.

Tennis legend Billie Jean King urged for the “sexualisation of women athletes” to stop, while global pop star Pink offered to pay Norway’s fines issued by the EHF. 

“I’m very proud of the Norwegian female beach handball team for protesting sexist rules about their uniform. Good on ya, ladies,” she wrote in a tweet back in July, while suggesting the EHF should be “fined for sexism.”

Since the accusations of sexism, the IHF has backtracked on its rules and will now permit female players to wear bike shorts and tank tops as opposed to the original uniform of bikini bottoms and crop tops.

The new shift in regulations comes after a campaign started by Norway-based activist Talitha Stone reached 61,000 signatures. Her petition received the backing of gender equality organisation Collective Shout, who she had previously worked with in 2012 to campaign against the Lingerie Football League.

However, despite the alterations, the new rules stipulate that “female athletes must wear short, tight pants with a close fit” while men can wear shorts 10cm above the knee “if not too baggy”.

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Norway initially raised the issue to highlight the unnecessary sexualisation of the outfits and the discomfort they bring the athletes during menstruation.

Even after issues were raised over uniforms being too revealing, women are still expected to sport “tight” and “close fit” garments while competing, but there are no similar rules in place for their male counterparts.

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