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Handball Federation folds to pressure, changes bikini uniform rule to allow for more cover, less skin

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International Handball Federation backtracks, changes ‘sexist’ rule, allows bike shorts instead of bikini bottoms

Months after a heated blowup, the International Handball Federation has quietly backtracked and will allow women competing in tournaments to wear bike shorts and tank tops instead of the more revealing bikini bottoms and crop tops they previously mandated.

The federation “quietly altered its regulations for beach handball” during the past month, according to The Guardian

Five Nordic countries including Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland sent a letter to the federation in September requesting that they “review uniform rules in accordance with gender equality.” The letter was sent after the Norway team was punished for wearing shorts instead of the required bikini outfit.

The team was fined 1,500 euros by European handball authorities for “improper clothing” after they chose to wear shorts in the European beach bronze medal match in Bulgaria last July in protest of the bikini-uniform rule.

The European Handball Federation’s disciplinary commission ruled that the shorts were “not according to the athlete uniform regulations defined in the IHF (International Handball Federation) beach handball rules of the game.”

By contrast, men were allowed to wear T-shirts and shorts. The double standard was considered by many to be sexist and unfair to the women handball players.

“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,” European Handball Federation spokesman Andrew Barringer noted in a public statement in July.

The team’s coach Eskil Berg Andreassen told CNN at the time that the uniform regulations could discourage women from playing the sport.

“With those bikinis, we were all the time checking if it’s in the right place. We were focusing on other things than the sport — and that’s not something we want,” Julie Aspelund Berg, who is a defender with Norway’s beach handball team, told CNN. “We just want to be treated at the same level as the guys.”

An international blowup ensued with widespread accusations of sexism against the federation.

Singer Pink offered to pay the team’s fine at the time in response to the federation’s actions. She tweeted that she was proud of the 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,” the pop star added.

The country’s minister for culture and sport, Abid Raja, called the ruling “completely ridiculous.” Women’s sports associations across Europe then proceeded to call for the resignation of the presidents of both the International Handball Federation and the European Handball Federation.

The EHF’s backtracking follows a campaign by Norway-based Australian activist Talitha Stone, whose petition attracted more than 61,000 signatures. The petition was supported by the gender equality organization Collective Shout.

“I hope this is the beginning of the end of sexism and objectification of women and girls in sport,” said Stone, who also led Collective Shout’s 2012 campaign against the Lingerie Football League. “And that in future all women and girls will be free to participate in sport without fear of wardrobe malfunctions and sexual harassment.”

Opinions on the development were mixed, to say the least:

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