SAI to protect girl athletes from falling prey to sexual harassment

The Sports Authority of India (SAI) has initiated firm steps aimed at protecting the girl athletes from falling prey to sexual harassment at the hands of their coaches.

According to SAI Director General Neelam Kapur, the idea is to “educate the children through this awareness programme. We want to sensitise the atmosphere and make the feel safe and comfortable during camps.”   -  V. Sudershan

The Sports Authority of India (SAI) has initiated firm steps aimed at protecting the girl athletes from falling prey to sexual harassment at the hands of their coaches.

According to SAI Director General Neelam Kapur, the idea is to “educate the children through this awareness programme. We want to sensitise the atmosphere and make them feel safe and comfortable during camps.”

The SAI held a workshop on Saturday which included the top brass of the organisation along with a few Regional Centre Heads. “We have lot of trainees who are minors who come in direct contact with coaches. We have tried telling them things which are acceptable and unacceptable. They should be aware. We have conveyed to the coaches that any violation would be dealt with strictly under the POCSO (Protection of Children against Sexual Offences) Act. As we are dealing with many minor children, POCSO applies to them,” Kapur told Sportstar.

The SAI had recently dismissed a coach from Tamil Nadu found guilty of sexually harassment an athlete. The SAI has also removed an employee based at the Karni Singh Shooting Ranges for indulging in a corrupt practice (trying to sell a gun illegally). “There is zero tolerance against corruption and sexual harassment of children of either sex,” added Kapur.

“Ignorance is not acceptable and we shall accept no excuses. We have to give our young athletes a safe environment to pursue their dreams and also assure their parents that the kids would be looked after well at camps and competitions,” said Kapur.

The three-hour workshop held here, asserted Kapur, was “part of a larger exercise aimed at clearing doubts and also understanding the subject better. The need to give confidence to the young trainees is imperative. We have empanelled NGOs who have the sanction of the Ministry of Women and Child Development. We have to ensure credibility towards their work.”

The workshops will be held next in local languages too. “We are going to provide redressal facilities well displayed so that the athletes don’t fear when reporting any incident. They should not hesitate at any stage.’

The SAI will also launch a call-centre, functional in all languages, and again outsourced to competent agencies, for the benefit of the young athletes. “We will reach out to them to gain feedback on training, food, coaches’ behaviour. It will be a third-party verification of the system so that we get unbiased reports. We have asked the BECIL (Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Limited) to help us,” informed Kapur.