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What triggered Indian Wrestlers’ Protests?

GS Paper 1

Syllabus: Indian Society, Governance, Women


Source: Indian Express


Context: Women are made to face the barrels of buoyant sexism on a daily basis, be it at work or even at home. Recently, Indian women wrestlers, Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik accused BJP MP and Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of sexual harassment.


Issues faced by women in sports:

The word ‘pressure’ is central to a sportsperson’s life: the need to perform better or at least at par with a previous time; the juggling of time between sport and study; the stress of endorsements. However, women have added layers of pressure:


  • Gender Pay disparity: The first challenge that female athletes have to face is being paid half or less of what is given to their male counterparts.
  • Being objectified: From coaches to commentators, to the audience, women are looked at as commodities showcasing themselves for men’s pleasure, not as entities of potential and talent.
    • Eg: India’s popular badminton player Jwala Gutta faced issues related to objectification and body shaming.
  • Lack of access to facilities: A lack of access to adequate playing facilities near their homes, makes it more difficult for girls to engage in sports.
  • Safety and transportation issues:Sports require a place to participate – and for many girls, especially in dense urban environments, that means travelling to facilities through unsafe neighbourhoods or lacking any means to get to a good facility miles away.
    • Eg: Manipur is a sporting powerhouse, but 48 % of female athletes travel over 10km to reach the practice facility
  • Social stigma: Girls in sports may experience bullying, social isolation, and negative performance evaluations.
  • Mental Health: Mental safety is essential. Institutes and coaches must provide access to sports psychologists. According to the IOC Mental Health in Elite Athletes Toolkit(2021), anxiety and depression are more common in women athletes.
  • The disparity in Access to Quality Training & Infrastructure: The availability of quality, trained coaches may be lacking in their community or these coaches may be more focused on the boys’ programs that have more money for training. Equipment and even uniforms aren’t funded for many girls’ programs at the same levels as boys. Thus, their ability to improve and enjoy the sport is diminished.
  • Inadequate Budget Allocated for Women in Sports: Budgets are being slashed in all sports, especially for women leading to poor infrastructure.
  • Lack of positive role models: Today’s girls are bombarded with images of external beauty, not those of confident, strong female athletic role models. To some girls, fitting within the mould that they are constantly told to stay in is more important than standing out.
    • For instance, it is estimated that the prevalence of eating disorders among women athletes is 6% to 45%, while for men athletes it ranges from 0 to 19%[ IOC Mental Health in Elite Athletes Toolkit(2021)].


Why girls need to be encouraged in sports:

  • They learn important life skills such as teamwork, leadership, and confidence.
  • It enhances their self-image
  • Girls’ involvement in sports is related to higher levels of family satisfaction.
  • High school female athletes have more positive body images than non-athletes.
  • Reduces chances of diseases in the long run.


The ethical aspect of sexual harassment in sports:

  • Lack of trust in the association.
  • Reduce participation
  • Shows a lack of empathy and morals from the perpetrator’s side.


Few positive examples:

  • The athletics federation has an international-level sportswoman (Anju Bobby George) as Vice President, which is the highest.
  • PT Usha leads IOA now.


Case of Dutee Chand:

Dutee Chand was to be the first Indian woman in 36 years to run a 100m at the Rio Olympics. Acting on an anonymous tip, she was asked to get tested for hyperandrogenism, wherein a woman’s body produces more testosterone than is acceptable under the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) guidelines. Not only was she banned from competing against other women in the Commonwealth Games, but the world was also suddenly questioning her gender identity. Her personal life became a sham and her professional life was a mess. However, Dutee refused to cower down, and refusing therapy, has challenged the IAAF regulations at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.


Insta Curious:

International Charter of Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport by UNESCO affirms that ‘equal opportunity to participate and be involved at all supervision and decision-making levels in physical education, physical activity and sport, whether for the purpose of recreation, health promotion or high performance, is the right of every girl and every woman that must be actively enforced’.


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