The Indian football community was left reeling this week as news surfaced of two players from Khad FC accusing Deepak Sharma, the general secretary of the Himachal Pradesh Football Association, of physical assault.

Palak Verma and Ritika Thakur alleged that Deepak, reportedly intoxicated, assaulted them on the night of March 28 in Goa. This incident has once again raised concerns about the safety of women in Indian sports. Sadly, this isn’t an isolated case, as the media has reported similar assaults against women in the past.

In another distressing incident, protests erupted against BJP MP and former Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over alleged sexual harassment of female wrestlers. These protests even led Olympic medalist Sakshi Malik, a prominent Indian wrestler, to quit from the sport.

While India has made strides in increasing women’s participation in sports, safety remains a major deterrent for women considering sports as a profession. RTI data reveals that between 2010 and 2020, there were 45 complaints of sexual harassment filed with the Sports Authority of India (SAI), with 29 implicating coaches. Often, the legal processes for seeking justice for victims are prolonged.

The recurrent instances of assault against women athletes underscore the urgent need for robust internal complaints committees and adherence to legal protocols. There’s a pressing need for swift investigations and judicial proceedings. The government must take proactive measures to establish better rules and regulations to address such incidents.

While we celebrate the achievements of our female athletes on international platforms, it’s crucial to ensure their basic safety and protection. Failure to do so would not only reduce women’s participating but also hamper efforts to attract talented female athletes to various sports.