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Sexual Harassment in Sports

GS Paper 1

 Syllabus: Indian Society: Social Empowerment


Source: IE


Context: An investigation has revealed that as many as 16 out of 30 national sports federations in India don’t comply with the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) Act, which mandates an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to create a safe workplace environment for women.


What is Internal Complaints Committee?

The ICC is the first port of call for any grievance under the PoSH Act, and it needs to have a minimum of four members with at least half of them women and one external member, preferably from an NGO or an association that works for women’s empowerment or a person familiar with issues related to sexual harassment, like a lawyer.


Status of various federations on ICC:

FederationICC Status
Gymnastics Federation of India, Table Tennis Federation, Handball Federation, Wrestling Federation, Volleyball Federation,No ICC
Judo Federation of India, Squash Rackets Federation, Billiards & Snooker FederationICC has only three members
Badminton Association of India, Archery Association, Basketball Federation, Indian Triathlon FederationICC has no external member


Common issues faced by women in sports:

Lack of funding and supportFor example, the US women’s soccer team has won more titles than the men’s team but has been paid less.
Gender-based discriminationFemale athletes may face discrimination based on their gender, such as being told they are not as strong or capable as male athletes.


E.g., Indian sport is characterised by a dangerous combination of political nexus and male domination of positions of power.

Sexual harassment and abuseTennis player Ruchika Girhotra from 1990 dared to raise her voice against the then president of the tennis federation and IG Haryana Police;

Chinese Tennis star Peng Shuai accused former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault (2018); USA Gymnastics sexual abuse scandal

Lack of media coverageWomen’s sports events are often given less media coverage compared to men’s events, which can limit their visibility and opportunities for sponsorship.
Decreased Quality TrainingInferior facilities and equipment, lack of quality trained coaches
Stereotyping and objectificationFemale athletes may be objectified and stereotyped based on their appearance rather than their athletic abilities.
Social Attitudes and DisfigurementDiscrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, negative performance evaluations, and loss of starting position
Ethical IssuesSome of the ethical issues faced by sexual harassment of women in sports include abuse of power, violation of trust, infringement of human rights, and the creation of hostile and unsafe environments.


Steps needed and those taken to address the issues faced by women in sports:

Education and AwarenessFor instance, the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Athlete365 program offers educational resources on a range of topics including athlete safeguarding.
Policy and guidelines developmentSports Authority of India has issued guidelines that mandate female coaches to accompany female athletes during travel.
Reporting and complaint mechanismsSexual Harassment Electronic Box (SHe-Box) provides single-window access for women to register their complaints of sexual harassment.
Accountability and enforcementNational 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 coach.
Support and empowermentMinistry of Youth Affairs and Sports launched the Khelo India Scheme in 2018 to promote sports at the grassroots level, with a special focus on encouraging the participation of girls.


Major Provisions of POSH Act 2013

Sexual harassment definedSexual harassment includes “any one or more” of the following “unwelcome acts or behaviour” committed directly or by implication: Physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours, sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography, any other unwelcome physical, verbal, or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature.
ObligationEvery employer is required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at each office or branch with 10 or more employees.
Complaint CommitteesICC has powers similar to those of a civil court in respect of summoning and examining any person on oath and requiring the discovery and production of documents.
TimeThe complaint must be made “within three months from the date of the incident”.
ConciliationThe ICC may (at the request of the aggrieved woman) allow the matter to be settled through conciliation (but no monetary settlement allowed)
PunishmentNon-compliance with the provisions of the Act shall be punishable with a fine of up to Rs 50,000.
CompensationCompensation is determined based on five aspects: suffering and emotional distress caused to the woman, loss of career opportunity, her medical expenses, income and financial status of the respondent, and the feasibility of such payment.
Domestic WorkerDomestic workers are protected under the Act and have the right to seek redressal from the Local Complaints Committee (LCC) when they are sexually harassed at their workplaces.



To address the issues faced by women in sports. It will require a concerted effort from various stakeholders, including governments, sports organizations, and civil society, to create a safe and equitable environment for women in sports.


Insta Links:

What triggered Indian Wrestlers’ Protests?


Mains Links

  1. How has women’s participation in sports changed over time? Enlist the challenges and limitations that women in sports face and measures taken to empower them.