(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
August 08, 2010
AIDWA Demands Gender Sensitive Sports Policy
ON August 2, a four-member delegation of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), led by its general secretary Ms Sudha Sundararaman, met the sports minister M S Gill to urge for his intervention in regard to the recent incidents of sexual harassment brought to light by some sportswomen. The delegation included T N Seema (Rajya Sabha member), Jagmati Sangwan (winner of National Bheema Award for Sports) and Ashalata (assistant secretary of the AIDWA).
The minister had had an intense discussion with the delegation, highlighting the complexities involved in taking legal action in such cases, and focusing on some of the constructive and concrete steps that could be taken to address the problem. A three point action strategy emerged from the discussion. The minister assured that firm legal action would be taken on the basis of the findings made by the committee set up by the ministry to enquire into the current complaints of sexual harassment. The ministry would also communicate to the state governments the need to immediately set up sexual harassment committees in the sports councils and other sports institutions as per the Visakha guidelines. The minister also responded positively to the suggestion for a larger consultation between sportspersons, women’s organisations and the ministry, which could help in evolving a more gender sensitive sports policy.
On this occasion, the delegation submitted a memorandum to the sports ministry, drawing attention to the recent complaints of sexual harassment made against their respective coaches by leading sportswomen in the fields of hockey and weightlifting. These are indicative of a grim malaise afflicting the whole sports sector, the memorandum said.
It has been learnt that the Hockey India’s four-member committee has sacked the videographer M Basavaraja and has reportedly sent the details of the sexual harassment complaint against coach M K Kaushik to the sports ministry, recommending police action under section 354 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). It has criticised its own committee for not recommending stern action against the concerned coach. In the wake of these charges, other players of importance have also come forward with complaints of sexual blackmail against M K Kaushik. Yet there has been no criminal action taken against him by the ministry, the memorandum stressed.
The AIDWA team pointed out that the statement made by Olympics bronze medalist Karnam Malleshwari, carried in the national papers on July 25, has accused the IWF coach Malhotra of being guilty of sexually harassing juniors for a decade. This is a shocking revelation of the state of affairs that is prevailing in the sports sector as a whole, the AIDWA said, adding that these incidents appear to be more than random instances of exploitation and violence. Such a trend, if left unchecked, would totally destroy women’s nascent attempts to prove themselves in the sports arena.
The AIDWA team also pointed out that if delayed complaints were made by affected women, it was because there has been no institutional provision within the sports federation where women could go and freely express their grievances. This represents a grave lacuna at a time when women are emerging as players at the national level. The Sports Authority of India and the sports ministry would be doing them grave injustice if their problems are not addressed in a systemic way.
In this regard, the AIDWA memorandum put forward the following demands.
1) The sports ministry must launch an immediate and thorough investigation based on the complaints, take stringent action against all those found guilty, and move towards preventing further occurrences of this nature.
2) Criminal action should be initiated against M K Kaushik for sexual harassment immediately.
3) A Sexual Harassment Complaints Committee must be set up, with immediate effect, in all the sectors that come under the sports ministry, as per the Visakha guidelines.
4) The legislation to address the problem of sexual harassment, which is now pending for over a decade, should be enacted into a law in the current session of parliament so that cases such as these could be tackled exemplarily and with the urgency required.
The AIDWA team made an appeal to the minister to ensure that the issue is dealt with seriously by the government. It asked for development of a gender sensitive sports policy for the country as a whole, which also addresses the specific problems faced by sportswomen. This would help to improve women’s performance in the field of sports, and encourage them further at a time when many of them are bringing laurels to our nation, the team opined.