A long-time advocate for women’s representation in sports, Manasi Joshi, India’s top para badminton player, is shocked by recent developments of sexual misconduct across sporting disciplines.
“There are monsters everywhere. Nobody should have to undergo any kind of abuse, be it physical, mental, or sexual. I think there should be very strict laws in place for safeguarding girls’ and women’s rights. They should be protected... I think no woman should go through a mental breakdown when she’s facing any issues or when she’s reporting [harassment].”
Earlier this month, the assistant head coach of the U-17 women’s football team, Alex Ambrose, was sacked after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against him. In June, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) terminated the contract of chief cycling coach R. K. Sharma after a national-level cyclist’s accusations of inappropriate behaviour.
“Sports should be an extremely safe space. I hope we see more and more positive examples where FIRs are filed against perpetrators and strict actions are taken. In case they are found guilty, they should be punished and we need to see those examples created as soon as possible,” Manasi said.
“Sports for women is not easy because you don’t get women coaches or physios. You don’t get those places where you can share things with your mentors. I wish we have more presence of females in sports,” she added.
Long jump World Championship medallist Anju Bobby George had recently spoken at the Sportstar South Sports Conclave about the hurdles athletes face in reporting incidents of sexual misconduct.
As a global role model for sportspersons with disabilities, Manasi said, “People who are dealing with unfortunate incidents, I’d like to tell them that it is not easy to come out of them. First, give yourself enough time... it’s not that difficult either. You can sail through... you will sail through. Just do what you love to do. You will have to prove yourself 10 times more than anybody else, but still keep at it. Enjoy once you are in the buzz, but do not forget about your fundamentals. Do what you love just for the happiness of doing it and not for anything else.”
Manasi recently withdrew from a tournament in Ireland because of personal reasons, but she plans to play again in Thailand in August and in the World Championship in November.
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