Law as a Vector of Sexual Binarity: The Example of Intersex Athletes’ Bodies

The Court of Arbitration for Sport recently upheld a regulation by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) according to which female athletes with hyperandrogenism should not be able to participate in some women’s competitions unless they reduce their testosterone level by medical treatment. This sex testing policy is frequently used in sport contests, mostly enforced on “suspicious looking women” via methods such as hormonal or chromosomal testing. Based on case law and sport regulations, I show that sport institutions play a major role in reinforcing the dogma of gendered binarity. Mandating “feminity tests” presupposes that every athlete can be assigned to a female or male sex category, making intersex bodies as a nonsense. The result is the production of bodies that are normalized according to gender binary stereotypes. This legal regime is currently contested by athletes (e.g., Caster Semenya) as grounded on sexist and even racist grounds.

How Should Lab-Grown Human Milk Be Regulated?

Pediatricians, scientists, and industry players have long sought to create an infant formula that would be as close as possible to human milk by “humanizing” cow’s milk. But in the past years, game changing technologies have led a few start-up biotech companies to develop lab-grown human milk. The expression refers to different techniques, including culturing mammary cells or yeast, to secrete components of human milk. Their hope is to market a product that is more digestible and rich in beneficial bacteria for newborns. While none of these products are yet on the market, the question arises of how they should be regulated. Should they be regulated as food, infant formula, human tissue? Or, should a new special category be devised? In most jurisdictions, there is no legal definition or specific regulatory regime for human milk itself to use as an analogy or disanalogy. There is, however, a growing literature on the regulation of other lab-grown foods, in particular meat and dairy.

Regulation of Vaginal Secretions as a Drug or Tissue and the Implications for Women’s Autonomy

The use of vaginal microbiota transplantation and vaginal seeding, respectively, as a potential therapy for bacterial vaginosis and preventive measure for allergies, asthma and obesity associated with c-section delivery, has recently come to light. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not made a public pronouncement about whether or how it would regulate this new application of vaginal secretions, such a decision is likely the next frontier in the regulation of microbiome-based therapies. If the agency follows the approach it has taken with fecal microbiota transplantation it will regulate vaginal secretions as a drug, medicalizing and shifting decision-making about their use from women and their physicians to the administrative state and the pharmaceutical industry. The decision to regulate these intimate bodily secretions as drugs rather than as the practice of medicine has profound implications for access to the secretions by women for therapeutic purposes.

Breastfeeding as a Human Right

Breastfeeding is a determinant of maternal and child morbidity and mortality. Global figures estimate that each year not breastfeeding can be attributed to 595,379 childhood deaths (age six to 59 months) and 98,243 maternal deaths. It is inadequate to recognise breastfeeding as inherent to the right to health and the right to food. I put the case forth that the right of the mother-child dyad to optimal health, nutrition, wellbeing, and life outcomes that breastfeeding confers contra breastmilk substitutes (BMS) satisfy criteria to qualify as a human right in international law. Consequently, breastfeeding should be formally recognised as a human right by the UN. The BMS industry employs aggressive and inappropriate marketing strategies that interfere with maternal/parental informed choice in infant and young child feeding decisions. I use the marketing strategies of the BMS industry as a case study to demonstrate the importance of protecting breastfeeding as a human right.

Should We Form a Family with the State? Trust, Reproduction, and Gender

The combination of pronatalism and populism has created new forms of family care benefits, also contributing to the commodification of maternity. In Hungary childcare benefits target predominantly large families, or parents who intend to have 3 or more children. More recently even infertility treatments were nationalized. These policies seem benevolent. Nevertheless, examined more closely, the picture is not as rosy as depicted in the promotional campaigns. Assisted reproduction has always raised difficult ethical and legal questions. It deeply affects personal relationships and family bonds. But it also brings up the political issue of who controls women's bodily integrity. Although the state may offer useful financial aid, but it should not intrude in the life of women and their families by putting social pressure on them through economic means. After all, people form a family or want children with their loved ones – and not with the state.