Wednesday, June 19, 2024

NHRC issues notice over alleged sexual harrasment of woman cyclist

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Friday issued notices to the Union Youth Affairs and Sports Ministry and the Sports Authority of India on the reported inappropriate behaviour of a coach with a top woman cyclist during a camp in Slovenia.

The NHRC took suo motu cognisance of media reports about the woman cyclist alleging that the national sprint team coach had acted inappropriately during a camp in Slovenia.

“The Commission has observed that the contents of the media report, if true, amount to human rights violation of the victim sportsperson. Accordingly, it has issued a notice to the Secretary, Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and the Director General, Sports Authority of India, calling for a detailed report in the matter. It should include the status of physical as well as mental health of the victim as well as action, if any, taken against the responsible officer including the coach concerned, within 4 weeks,” the NHRC said.

She had reportedly emailed a complaint to the SAI, which prima facie found the allegation to be true, says NHRC statement.

The complainant was immediately brought back to India mid-way her training to ensure her safety. The SAI has prima facie found the allegation as true.

The Commission also asked authorities whether any specialized counselling has been provided to her by the authorities.

“It is strange to know that instead of reining in the coach, the Sports Authority of India reportedly chose to bring the victim back to India thereby depriving her of training overseas for which she had been selected. The Right to Dignity of the victim has purported to have been violated, considering the fact coach and sportsperson is having fiduciary relation, where coach is reposed with the trust to look after the well-being and welfare of the sportswoman,” reads the statement.

The woman victim was part of the Indian team that was in Slovenia to prepare for the Asian Championship, which is scheduled to be held in New Delhi from 18-22 June 2022. Allegedly, the coach forcefully tried pulling her towards him and asked her to come and sleep with him and threatened to destroy her career, if not conceded to his demands.

The coach and the rest of the Indian Victims are expected to return to India on 14th June, 2022.

The Commission is also of the opinion that if the allegations mentioned in the news report are true and no action is taken by the authorities with regard to such incidents, other female sportspersons will not only feel unsafe but will be reluctant to complain against the perpetrators in future for fear that they may also be called back mid way during their training.

“The subject also falls under ambit of the Sexual Harassment of Women at workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act of 2013, which categorically defines in Section 2(o)(iv) that workplace includes any sports institute, stadium, sports complex or competition or games venue, whether residential or not used for training, sports or other activities relating thereto. The SAI is, therefore, also under the obligation to get the matter probed as per provisions of the Act.”

According to media reports, when the victim could not tolerate the advances and explicit sexual overtones made by the coach, she spoke to the CEO of the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS, who booked her return ticket for 03rd June 2022.

The victim has mentioned in her complaint that the coach has destroyed her mentally and emotionally, which is now impacting her sporting performance. She has sought the strictest possible action against the coach, not only to ensure her safety but also the safety of all others, especially the female athletes.

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