In the lead up to the 2021 AFLW season, the AFL should junk its ridiculous gender diversity policy and make a clear statement that women’s football is for female players.

Hannah Mouncey is right to point out the ludicrousness of the AFL allowing her to play in AFL Canberra’s second division women’s competition but not the first division. This situation has occurred because the AFL knows it is not fair or safe for biological males to play women’s football, yet its Community Football Gender Diversity Policy states that “considerations of social inclusion have greater priority than concerns that may exist with respect to competitive advantage in relation to the participation of gender diverse players”.

The suggestion that women and girls playing community football aren’t entitled to fair competition because the AFL wants to appear ‘inclusive’ is insulting, elitist and dangerous. The right to play sport against people of your own sex is not supposed to be a privilege granted only to elite athletes.

Providing fair and safe competition for females is the purpose of women’s sport. The AFL and many other major sports in Australia are undermining that opportunity by allowing biological males into women’s sport.

I have written to the AFL CEO pointing out major flaws in their Gender Diversity Policy. Just like the Sport Australia inclusion guidelines on which it is based, the AFL policy makes the dubious assertion that Commonwealth Discrimination law may make female-only football unlawful. This is despite the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act 1984 allowing for single-sex sporting competition in any sport where strength, stamina and physique are relevant. Does the AFL seriously believe these attributes are not relevant to Australian Rules football at every level?

The AFL policy also fails to engage with or consider the clear scientific evidence that males have significant strength, speed and power advantages over women, and that testosterone suppression is not sufficient to remove these advantages. Nor is it sufficient to only exclude the tallest and heaviest trans women, given that males will on average be significantly stronger and more powerful than females of the same height and weight.

The irony is that by failing to avail itself of the right to operate single-sex women’s football, the AFL has exposed itself to potential legal action by excluding one particular trans woman from some women’s competitions while allowing other trans women to play women’s football at any level.

The AFL and other sporting administrators should ask themselves whether it is fairer, safer, more sensible and easier for administrators and participants to understand to have separate football leagues for males and females and encouraging everyone to participate in their own sex category; or to continue with their current position that women aren’t entitled to single-sex sport, some biological males can play in certain women’s competitions but not others, while other trans women can play in all competitions?

For most fair-minded Australians the answer is obvious. The AFL should display some common sense and respect for women and girls in sport by ensuring the integrity and safety of female football competitions.