KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Badminton’s governing body is defending a new rule that orders female players to wear skirts.

The new on-court clothing rule has been misinterpreted, the Badminton World Federation said in a statement on today.

“It has never been the intention of the BWF to portray women as sexual objects, and nor is that what we are doing,” deputy president Paisan Rangsikitpho said.

Some players have opposed the new rule, which will take effect at international events on June 1. The rule will apply at the world championships in London from Aug. 8-14 and the 2012 Olympics.

World No. 9 Tine Baun of Denmark said clothing should be a personal choice.

“Can you ask men to wear a particular dress and play?” Baun told the Times of India. “Each player knows his or her comfort level and you should not decide what is good for them.”

The “aesthetic and stylish presentation” of players was an important factor in increasing  badminton‘s popularity, Rangsikitpho said. “The clothing regulation is yet another example of how BWF are putting focus on the women’s game to raise the profile.”

Baun said the BWF could better improve the profile of the game by promoting the top players.

“It can be made more professional, there should be promotional events, big posters and banners at big tournaments,” she said.

Rangsikitpho said women could continue to wear shorts, tights or tracksuit bottoms beneath the mandatory skirt.

“Players can still wear all of the above and from the guidelines it should be clear that these do not push any women to wear clothing they are not comfortable with,” he said.

The ruling was delayed by one month until after the federation’s annual meeting in Qingdao, China, allowing members to “fully understand the reasons” behind its introduction.

The BWF said it offers equal prize money for men and women.