A day after The Indian Express reported about 45 cases of sexual harassment were reported at 24 institutes under the Sports Authority of India (SAI) over the last decade, the Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Kiren Rijiju said that there is “zero-tolerance for sexual harassment” on SAI campuses.
“The inquiries that are underways will be speeded up. I have directed that all pending cases will be disposed within the next four weeks,” he said.
As per reports, it had also come to light that in several cases, the accused were let off leniently, with punishments from transfers to a small cut in their pay or pension. However, investigations into almost a dozen complaints have dragged on for years, without any resolution so far.
Meanwhile, SAI in a press release, said that it has records of 35 sexual harassment that it had received at various SAI centres, out of which 27 are from the trainees against their coaches. The sports body said that it has imposed a penalty on 14 people who have been found guilty, adding that investigation in 15 cases is “under progress”.
The sports body also said that it sensitises athletes about the issue of sexual harassment through workshops in different languages and encourages them to come forward and register complaints.
“A call centre is also operational since April 2019 through which trainees can lodge their grievances directly. During December 2019, more than 350 calls were received by the call centre from the trainees on various issues which are being faced by them. The complaint thus received is immediately taken up for redressal,” a press release issued by the sports body said.
“A follow-up action is also being carried out by the call centre to ensure that grievances registered are settled and not repeated,” it added.
Earlier, former director-general of SAI, Jiji Thomson, said that athletes often withdraw their complaints or change their statements, fearing their careers would be impacted, which makes it difficult for them to take action.
“Most of these girls come from humble backgrounds. So they are persuaded or pressurised to change their statement or take back their complaints,” Thomson, who was SAI DG from March 2013 to January 2015, said. “The girls give in to the fact that their future in sports, which for many is a way out of poverty, is in the hands of the coaches. So they often give up,” Thomson had told The Indian Express.
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