Lausanne: Women boxers will not be forced to wear skirts when the sport makes its Olympic debut in London later this year, the sport's governing body for amateurs has announced.

The International Boxing Association (AIBA) had faced criticism from female fighters over a proposal to make skirts mandatory to distinguish them from the men.

But in a change to its Technical and Competition Rules, posted on its website on Thursday, the governing body said women could now wear either shorts or skirts according to their preference.

"For all AIBA Approved Events, Women Boxers must wear a red or blue form fitting vest and either shorts or the option of a skirt as per the Boxers' respective corner allocation, which shall be their own responsibility," the new guidelines said.

"The belt line of any shorts or skirt must be clearly indicated by a contrasting colour and by using a 6-10 cm wide elastic waistband (the belt line is an imaginary line from the navel to the top of the hips)," it added.

The changes, which come into effect later this month, follow recommendations from national boxing federations and fighters themselves, said AIBA president Wu Ching-Kuo, who insisted that it was never the plan to make skirts compulsory.

"Our Technical and Rules Commission have had several discussions. Some women want to wear shorts and some others want to wear skirts. So, the decision we have made is that we shall make it optional," he said.

Some 36 women boxers are due to compete in London, vying for the sport's first Olympic medals in three weight classes: flyweight (48-51kg), lightweight (57-60kg) and middleweight (69-75kg).