Sexual Harassment in Sports

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    In News

    • The Union Sports Minister announced that six-time World champion and Olympic medallist boxer M.C. Mary Kom would head a government-appointed five-member Oversight Committee to investigate the charges levelled by some prominent wrestlers against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

    Do you Know?

    • Wrestling in India has been practiced since the 5th millennium B.C. In Ancient India, wrestling was most famously known as MallaYudha. 
    • It is also known as Dangal, and it is the basic form of a wrestling tournament. It is also called kushti in Punjab and Haryana

    About oversight committee

    • Members: Olympic medallist wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, well-known shuttler Trupti Murgunde, former Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) CEO Commander Rajesh Rajagopalan, and former Executive Director (Team) of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Radhica Sreeman are the other members of the committee.
    • Objectives:  It will investigate the serious charges levelled by the wrestlers and will submit its report within a month. Till then the committee will carry out the WFI’s day-to-day work.
    • The panel will probe the allegations of sexual misconduct, harassment and intimidation, financial irregularities, and administrative lapses.

    About Sexual harassment in sport

    • Sexual harassment is “where any form of unwanted verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature occurs, with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person, in particular when creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”.
    • Sexual harassment sports are regarded as an abuse of professional ethics, status, and power.

    Impacts 

    • Sexual harassment in sports lowers self-esteem and limits the ability of women and girls to develop their full potential in sports and fitness activities. 
    • It compromises the professional integrity of the coach and the educational mission of athletics
    • It subverts the mission of sports organizations and educational institutions to provide leadership and resources for the purpose of improving the physical, mental and emotional well-being of all females through sports and fitness participation
    • In a country like India where the sport is still not considered a viable career option, incidents of sexual harassment in sports could discourage parents from sending their daughters to stadiums.

    Initiatives 

    • The Sports Authority of India (SAI) has issued guidelines to the National Sports Federation of India (NSFOI) that women coach mandatorily accompany the contingent with female athletes during domestic or international travel.
    • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued notices to the Union Youth Affairs and Sports Ministry and the Sports Authority of India on the reported inappropriate behaviour of a coaches.
    • The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act was passed in 2013.
      •  It defines sexual harassment, lays down the procedures for a complaint and inquiry, and the action to be taken. 
      • It broadens the Vishaka guidelines, which were already in place.
    • Vishaka guidelines: They are considered to be the most powerful tool for women to guard them against sexual harassment and punish the guilty. Supreme Court laid down the norms in ‘Vishaka and others Vs State of Rajasthan and others.
      • The public interest litigation was filed by women’s rights groups, including Vishakha in the case of the alleged gang-rape of Bhanwari Devi, a social worker from Rajasthan.
    • Apart from the Vishakha guidelines, women employees can take legal steps under the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act. 
      • The steps can be taken under Section 294, Section 354, and Section 509 of the Indian Penal Code.
    • SHe-Box: The Ministry of Women & Child Development launched the Sexual Harassment electronic Box (SHe-Box) to provide single window access to every woman, irrespective of her work status, whether working in the organized or unorganized, private or public sector, to facilitate the registration of complaint related to sexual harassment.
    • The National Commission for Women (NCW) has asked all States to ensure strict implementation of the sexual harassment at workplace law by coaching centres and educational institutes.

    Suggestions and Conclusion 

    • Leaders of sports governing bodies, educational institutions, and athletic programs need to be encouraged to formulate, implement and evaluate policies on sexual harassment. 
      • The policy should clearly define sexual harassment and explain the sanctions for sexual harassment.
    •  Develop a complaint procedure for reporting sexual harassment
    • Ensure that procedures for reporting sexual harassment protect the privacy of any athlete or coach involved as much as possible. 
      • It is helpful to distinguish between informal and formal procedures for reporting sexual harassment.
    • All athletes should be encouraged to immediately report an incident she believes is a form of sexual harassment by a coach, whether the incident was directed at her or she observed it happening to someone else
    • The International Olympic Committee must help boost safeguards for athletes against sexual abuse or risk losing them

    Source: TH