Multiple incidents of administrators, federation bosses and coaches sexually harassing female sportspersons have come to light over the years. An RTI to the Sports Authority of India listed 28 sexual harassment complaints during May 2017-2022. Seen over the decade, the number climbs to 45. Many more were never reported. A parliamentary panel report on the empowerment of women found that in many cases, these athletes are pressured to either not file or withdraw complaints. Many succumb. Since many women sportspersons are from poor families and sports offer a way out of poverty, they fear persisting with the complaint would jeopardise their prospects. It is critical that sexual harassment is not treated in an episodic manner. It is a systemic problem. Besides strengthening the reporting system, there should be well-laid-out guidelines. The most important measure is ensuring exemplary punishment of those harassing female athletes.
Indian women athletes are beginning to make a place for themselves. Their successes have an exemplar effect. It is unfortunate that at a time when more young girls and women can see a future in sport, the people who are supposed to nurture and promote them are exploiting them.