[dropcap]I[/dropcap]ndia had a woman president and prime minister. A male prime minister who says, educate girls and save them. Yet one of the greatest tragedies that our country faces is that women have to rely on themselves when it comes to their own safety. No respect for women. No respect for our culture. And as far as the law is concerned, who cares? There is currently no special law in India against sexual assault or harassment, and only penetration by a male’s sexual organ counts as rape. Proving molestation is another challenge faced by women.
India is known to be a land of contrasts. On the one hand, we celebrate the success of our leading female sports stars like Sania Mirza and Saina Nehwal, whereas on the other hand, a national-level shooter has accused her coach, also a former shooter and Olympian, of having spiked her drink at a party and raping her in Delhi. The Haryana woman shooter claimed that her coach, with whom she was in a relationship with for the last two years, had promised to marry her. A complaint has been filed in the case. The accused is an Arjuna awardee and employed with the Sports Authority of India (SAI), which is why the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) has not intervened. The SAI in its capacity can suspend the accused till the charges against him are proved. However, since the accused has only been asked to co-operate with investigation as of now, and has not been arrested, the authority has not taken any action against him. This is how the sports women time and again, lands in trouble and accused roam scot free.
Earlier too, a promising 15-year-old female athlete committed suicide after being harassed by seniors. The news of the tragic incident of four young female athletes attempting suicide by eating poisonous fruits, with one of them succumbing to it, at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) water sports centre at Vembanad Lake, Alappuzha, Kerala had spread like wildfire. While the horrific occurrence has rattled the corridors of the Sports Ministry, the news once again brings to light the plight of female Indian sports athletes. Neither Indian sports nor the governing body SAI is new to controversies. Flip through the pages of history and one can find several incidents of misbehaviour and allegations of sexual harassment made by leading sportswomen of the country.
In 2009, the women’s team accused the Andhra Cricket Association (ACA) secretary V Chamundeshwarnath of asking for sexual favours in order to be selected. Following complaints of sexual harassment by women cricketers, the ACA sacked the secretary and the police booked a case against him. This shameful act came to light when six women cricketers met then State Home Minister P Sabitha Indra Reddy and explained the situation to her.
In 2011, Thulasi alleged that the Tamil Nadu Boxing Association (TNBA) secretary A K Karunakaran misbehaved with her while asking her to ‘cooperate’ if she wished to be selected. In 2010, a women hockey player alleged sexual harassment by chief coach. As we know, Hockey is the national game of India but the game or more specifically the organisation running it, Hockey India (HI), has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. In 2010, few members of Indian Women’s Hockey team complained of being sexually harassed by the then chief coach Maharaj Krishan Kaushik. The scenario came to light when Ranjitha Devi sent an email to HI. She mentioned about being subjected to sexual harassment and that she was eventually not considered for inclusion in the team for not acceding to the coach’s ‘demands’. It was also noted that Kaushik used his reputation of having coached the Men’s 1998 Bangkok Asian Games gold medal-winning side to the fullest to save him.
In 2014, another shocking incident of sexual harassment came to light, when gymnastics coach Manoj Rana and gymnast Chandan Pathak were booked for allegedly sexually harassing a female gymnast at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium while attending a national camp for the Asian Games. The 29-year-old woman gymnast revealed that vulgar and indecent remarks were made about her clothes by the two. The Gymnastic Federation of India (GFI) promised strict action against Rana and Pathak if they were found guilty of the charges.
A budding talent who could have made India proud in the boxing ring like Mary Kom chose to end her life following the continuous onslaught of harassment by her coach. Twenty-one-year-old S Amaravathi consumed poison at Hyderabad’s Lal Bahadur Stadium for not being able to cope with constant altercations with her coach Omkar Yadav.
Violence against women athletes, as gender-based violence sometimes are considered as hate crime. This type of violence targets a specific group with the victim’s gender as a primary motive. This type of violence is gender-based, meaning that the acts of violence are committed against women expressly because they are women. The male ego and also the male authority, take every advantage of weaker woman if she tries to reach all highs. India is one of the progressing countries with many success stories but the fate of female yet remains the same and I can’t see anything changing much.
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