Sports

Do away with gender discrimination

Saba Nayakan | Updated on March 12, 2018

Tennis player, Sania Mirza

Boxing champion, M.C. Mary Kom

Till the country’s highest ranked woman tennis player Sania Mirza-Malik protested against the All-India Tennis Association’s decision to pair her with Leander Paes without seeking her consent in the mixed doubles event of the 2012 London Olympics, very little was known about how Indian women were treated by the officialdom.

No doubt Sania's statement raised a storm but the support she subsequently got from fellow Hyderabadi and a top-ranked badminton doubles player, Jwala Gutta, ought to have stunned her compatriots no end.

This is not the first time Indian women sportspersons have complained against the male coaches and officials.

All the past allegations of discrimination of some order not only fell on deaf ears but failed to raise a debate. Neither this is going to be the last time. Gender discrimination is one of deep rooted problems faced in India.

Sexual harassment or seeking sexual favour by male coaches and administrators are quite rampant, but nothing much came to light because the affected sportspersons preferred to suffer in silence.

Being on the right side of powers that be gave one far more advantage than being against them. Smarter once suffered less and gained more. There were instances when lady sportspersons levelled charges against male coaches in the past, but not many complaints have been made against male officials, both at the State and National level.

The reason is simple. These officials have the power to finish off a budding career.

Moreover, who will believe these young girls when it comes to their word against an official who controls the sport? Those who resisted had to move away from the sport to save their dignity thus sacrificing promising careers. It is not that every coach or every official in sport can be accused of this malady. There are a few who needs to be identified and eliminated. Women power has been one of India's strength on sporting field. Indian women have been in forefront since long. But when it comes to sharing power with women, male administrators are a reluctant lot pushing the ladies to minor positions.

The need of the hour is to encourage women to take up key positions in sports administration, be it a National Federation or a State Association. The presence of lady officials or coaches gave far more secure environment for women to pursue sporting career vigorously. One of the joint secretaries of the Bengal Olympic Association (BOA), Ms Suravi Mitra, says there are rules governing minimum percentage of women to be induced in sports administration.

“But the reality is different,” she rues. “At least a coach or a manager should be a woman when a women’s team travels to competition,” she says. There are only two women in a male-dominated BOA, the other one being Ms Bani Ghosh of West Bengal Cycling Association. She is a Vice-President. Ms Mitra represents women’s hockey in the BOA.

The Indian Olympic Association, the apex body that controls sport in India, needs to review its position in this vital area.

Even the International Olympic Committee is said to be beset with this problem despite taking a stand in 2004. There are pressure groups within the IOC voicing its concern ahead of London Olympics. Will India change now after the outburst of Sania Mirza and Jwala Gutta? s

>aba@thehindu.co.in

Published on July 08, 2012

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