The International Handball Federation has updated its rules so that women will no longer be required to play in bikini bottoms, responding to months of pressure from female players and coaches who described the uniform requirements as sexist.
According to the new rules, which were published Oct. 3 and will go into effect Jan. 1, “Female athletes must wear short tight pants with a close fit.” The previous rules for beach handball required women to wear bikini bottoms “with a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg.” The sides of the bikini bottoms could not be more than 4 inches (10.16 centimeters).
The IHF, the sport’s governing body, did not provide a reason for the change.
In July, Norway’s women’s handball team was fined €1,500 (about $1,740) for competing in a championship game in shorts instead of bikini bottoms, a penalty that drew widespread criticism. Even the singer Pink weighed in, saying that she was proud of the team for protesting the rules and offering to pay the fine.
The fine against the Norwegian team was delivered just as the Tokyo Olympics were starting, adding to a discussion about the double standards affecting female athletes at every level of competition in handball and across sports including gymnastics, badminton and tennis. In beach handball, men are allowed to wear shorts as long as 4 inches above their knees as long as they are “not too baggy.”
After teams in Europe and American Samoa pressured the IHF to change its rules, the organization’s president, Hassan Moustafa, said in August that it was likely that new rules would be established.
Moustafa said in a statement that the federation, which is based in Basel, Switzerland, had required female players to wear bikini bottoms because those were the rules for beach volleyball, which is played on the same surface.
Kare Geir Lio, the head of the Norwegian Handball Federation, said Monday that he was proud of Norway’s team for initiating the change. The women, he said, chose the right moment to say, “Enough is enough.”
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