ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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From Allegations to Action

Reforming Policies to Combat Sexual Harassment in Indian Sports

The existing legislation and sport-specific policies that aim to protect athletes from sexual harassment are examined. There is an urgent need for policy reforms in the country to ensure accountability and foster a safe sports culture for athletes to grow in an abuse-free environment.


Sexual harassment is an area of concern within the field of sports globally. Abuse in sports encompasses a wide range of harmful behaviours, often intersecting and manifesting in multiple forms. These include sexual, physical, psychological, economic, online, and even subtle forms such as bullying and microaggressions (UNSECO and UN Women 2023). In India, a total of 45 reports regarding sexual harassment have emer­ged from 24 government-operated sports institutes between 2010 and 2020, according to the right to information (RTI) requests and official records (Vasavda 2020). These cases have predominantly resulted in minimal (or no) consequences for the accused. Investigations into several of these complaints have lasted for years without reaching a resolution (Indian Express 2020). In addition, many incidents of sexual harassment in sports are unreported (Sangwan 2023). Therefore, in many cases, the accused are not held accountable, and athletes’ rights are not protected.

In January 2023, 30 Indian wrestlers, including Olympic medalists, organised a sit-in, accusing the president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and its coaches of sexual harassment (Bridge Desk 2023). The protests were called off after the government promised a fair investigation. However, in April 2023, the wrestlers resumed their protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi because of dissatisfaction with the investigation con­ducted by the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), established under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act (POSH) 2013, as the investigation report was not made public. They demanded the arrest of the WFI president, claiming that the harassment had persisted since 2012. After the initial refusal, the Delhi Police filed a first information report (FIR) following a writ petition filed in the Supreme Court (Bridge Desk 2023).

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Updated On : 15th Dec, 2023
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