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शुक्रवार, दिसंबर 25, 2009

Sports not ‘healthy’ for girls?

Sexual exploitation of women athletes is rampant
December 24
One major gray area of Indian sports has been the exploitation and sexual harassment of girl and women athletes. Conviction of former Director-General of Police SPS Rathore in the Ruchika molestation case is only a symbolic revelation of a deeper malaise that has been continuously tormenting women in sports.
Only in July this year, the manager of Indian women’s T20 cricket team, Chamundeswarnath, hawked newspaper headlines after several women players complained against sexual harassment and nepotism by him. Besides, they also accused him of sending lewd SMSs. The Andhra Pradesh government ordered an inquiry after a police case was registered against him on the complaint of a woman cricketer.
Intriguingly, a minute percentage of total cases of exploitation and sexual harassment of girl and women athletes are reported to the police or highlighted in the media as the victims and their parents prefer to quit the sports scene to avoid “public disgrace”. Some years ago a male swimming coach was accused of under water sexual misconduct with girl trainees. But the case was hushed up after his transfer.
It is one reason that many parents do not want their daughters to take to competitive sports. The problem is not only confined to India but is prevalent world over as even the International Olympic Committee had in February 2007 adopted a consensus position statement on sexual harassment and abuse in sport. The statement was prepared by a group of experts at a seminar in Lausanne, the headquarters of the IOC, at a seminar a year earlier.
The statement not only defines the problems but also identifies the risk factors and provides guidelines for prevention and resolution. In spite of rigorous guidelines and instructions issued from time to time, male coaches, managers and other male officials continue to accompany girls and women teams for tournaments and competitions. Indian women’s’ T20 cricket team has been the glaring example.
Even if one takes a wide look at the sports management infrastructure in the country, it is essentially a male bastion. Even games and sports that primarily have dominant women participation, management, including coaching, remain in the male domain. Most of these sports managers are either bureaucrats or politicians who refuse to leave the sports bodies alone even after several terms of three to five years each in office.
At times, cases of exploitation of school and college girls or junior team officials get highlighted in the media। But subsequent pressures from the powerful sports managers force the complainants to withdraw. For example, cases of girl and women swimmers, tennis and badminton players from the northern region being sexually harassed, never progressed beyond the complaint. Naturally, exploitation is more in individual sports than team games. And Ruchika unfortunately wanted to be tennis player, again an individual event.

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