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“Mhari chhoriyan chhoron se kam hain ke“, Dangal’s famous dialogue is used mostly. But the question is how far is it considered or believed. The word Sexism in sports is an old term but is still prevailing, at a time when we are moving towards modernization. Sexism in sports generally means the discrepancies in behavior seen towards men and women in the sports industry, may it be about payments, recognition, or disparity in media coverage.
Most sports like to differentiate between men and women, tennis being one of them. In 2018, Tennis star, Serena Williams accused umpire Carlos Ramos of sexism after receiving numerous code violations for calling the umpire a thief and breaking her racket. Professional tennis player, Serena Williams says “I believe that sexism is rampant in the sport.”
Factors responsible for sexism in sports
Male ruling game culture is constantly supported invariably from a young age. Mainstream society and coaches continually convey messages that underline hypermasculinity. They use an aggressive tone towards their players telling them to “men up” or trying to shame them by implying that “they play/run/throw like girls. This is the easiest way to shut them down by denoting them to a woman in sports.
Women are comparatively paid less than men in sports. This also stands as an underlying barrier to equality. Of the Forbes 50 most-paid athletes only two of them are females. Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams are among the sports world’s biggest marketing stars. The difference in dominance is too wide because the recognition of female players to that of men is comparatively less. This pay gap does not only occur while playing but also when they make appearances on TV shows as a sports expert.
This pay gap arises due to different factors:
- Endorsement deal: Male games draw in more viewership and are far more in demand. A study also states that female athletes as a spokesperson are less preferred and when preferred are paid less than males.
- Economic return: Economic elements are also a main factor affecting equity pay in sports. Female athletes engage less audience than males. This indicates female teams sell fewer tickets and hence generate less revenue.
- No higher authority: The lack of women presiding over sports organizations.
- Motherhood also reduces the earning of female athletes as they miss chances to attend tournaments.
In this age of globalization and technology, women’s sports still face a lack of exposure. Sports media is also dominated by male reporters. In televised media, 80% of anchors and co-anchors are male. The nature of narrative and inclusion is significantly lower than that of men. Study finds when women are given airtime, the coverage is lower in technical quality and production value when compared to coverage of men’s sport.
Sexual abuse in sports workplace
Sexual harassment of female athletes is a complex issue that is influenced by various factors, including the lack of awareness and education about sexual harassment in the sports industry, the male-dominated power dynamic, and the reluctance of victims to report such incidents.
The prevalence of sexual harassment within the sport is a serious issue, that needs to be addressed and steps must be taken for awareness and education related to this, as well as it should also empower victims to come forward and report instances of sexual harassment. Eventually, the obligations come into the hand of individuals sitting in power and position within the sports industry.
Also Read | Sports Biomechanics
Female Wrestlers vs WFI Chief Controversy
In January 2023, several Indian wrestlers including Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik, and Vinesh Phogat accused the Wrestling Federation of India’s (WFI) president, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, of sexually exploiting female wrestlers. The wrestlers called for the intervention of the Prime Minister and the Home Minister for his removal from the position. The protests were eventually withdrawn after the formation of an oversight committee to investigate the allegations.
However, the wrestlers renewed their protests on April 23, after seven female wrestlers, including a minor, attempted to file a complaint against the WFI, but the police refused to register an FIR. Later, the Supreme Court permitted the police to register two FIRs against Singh. The first FIR was filed under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, for sexual harassment against a minor. The second one was filed based on the complaint filed by the other female wrestlers who alleged that Singh had sexually harassed them.
The wrestlers’ accusations have brought attention to the issue of sexual harassment in sports, particularly in wrestling. The case has also highlighted the need for stronger measures to be put in place to protect athletes and ensure that they can train and compete in a safe and healthy environment.
Supreme Court’s verdict
The Supreme Court has closed the petition filed by women wrestlers against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for sexual harassment. The Court stated that FIRs have been filed against Singh and complainants have been provided adequate security. The bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices P.S. Narasimha and J.B. Pardiwala said that the plea for registration of a first information report (FIR) has been satisfied. The petitioner’s lawyer requested the court not to close the proceedings, expressing concerns that the Delhi police may delay the probe if that is done. However, the Supreme Court rejected the request and advised the petitioners to approach the “appropriate jurisdictional magisterial court or the high court” if they want to pursue further action.
Sexism in Sports: Solutions
- Support women’s and girls’ sports as a fan or players: Encourage women by attending their games at all levels. Support female athletes by following them on social media and watching their games on television.
- Avoid misogynist language in communication: When writing about women’s sports avoid using sexist language. Utilize a similar clear language while depicting both male and female athletes.
- Develop gender equity policy: Sports organization needs to work for equal gender policy in each aspect. Women doing equal work should have equal participation, opportunities, financial aid, or funding as their male counterparts.
- Abstain conservative thinking: People should develop their mentality or should evolve their mindset according to the time. They should encourage, empower and respect women players.
Gender inequality in sports is highly prominent and can be seen through the naked eyes in promotions or branding or the pay scale. The late addition of women cricketers in IPL is one such example.
The sporting facilities are more readily available for male counterparts. In this age of globalization and technology, women’s sports still face a lack of exposure. Women are comparatively paid less than men in sports. This also stands as an underlying barrier to equality.
Gender-sensitive policies are required in sports sector and the role of media has great significance. Recent achievements of female athletes in the major championship is helping to overshadow the inherent inequality.