Badminton's chiefs have denied a new rule requiring women players to wear skirts is sexist, saying they are simply aiming at a "stylish and aesthetic" look to attract a bigger audience.
The Kuala Lumpur-based Badminton World Federation (BWF) said it would go ahead with the regulation, which was deferred after an outcry from players and officials, from June 1.
Women playing in the sport's top tournaments are compelled to wear skirts or dresses, even if they are over the top of shorts or trousers. But wearing shorts and trousers alone is banned.
BWF deputy president Paisan Rangsikitpho denied women were being exploited and said the skirts would not have to be short. But he insisted the sport had to "differentiate the women's game".
"It has never been the intention of the BWF to portray women as sexual objects, and nor is that what we are doing," he said.
"We need to be able to able to differentiate the women's game and the ruling is part of a larger campaign to enhance the presentation profile of the sport," he added.
"This is to help attract a wider target group amongst both younger and older people, and amongst both women and men, where an aesthetic and stylish presentation of the players is certainly an important factor."
The world governing body said the innovation, initially intended from May 1, was delayed to "provide an opportunity for... members to fully understand the reasons behind the new rule".
It added that the skirts-only ruling was a further attempt to raise the profile of women's badminton, after standardising prize money and the points system for both sexes.
But the move has caused disquiet with many players and officials saying women should not be told what to wear.
"You cannot make it compulsory for everyone to wear skirts," Indian doubles specialist Jwala Gutta said last month.
"It depends on each individual and their comfort level. I am not sure people will like being told what to wear and what not to."
Other opponents include India's National Commission for Women and Britain's Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson, according to local media reports.
"Athletes should be the ones who decide what they wear on court. This is not a very 21st-century approach," London's Evening Standard quoted Robertson as saying.