venerdì 20 luglio 2012

INDIA - Unfair Game: Gender discrimination in sports.

Over the last few weeks, a series of prominent sportswomen in India have spoken out against sports authorities for being sexist. With the Olympics round the corner, the debate around gender discrimination has again been ignited by statements from Sania Mirza, India’s number one female tennis player who lashed out at the All India Tennis Association for using her as ‘bait’ in the selection of India’s Olympic tennis team, claiming that the episode reeked of male chauvinism and was a “blatant humiliation of Indian womanhood”. She was echoed by Jwala Gutta (a former number one badminton player) who said that male chauvinism has always existed in Indian sports, and has been a barrier for women who choose to take up sports as a career.
Women in India face many layers of discrimination. Historical practices continue to perpetuate gender disparities in a country trying to race ahead to become a global superpower. A recent poll by the group TrustLaw found India the worst among the G-20 countries for women to live in. The National Crime Records Bureau's latest statistics show that crime against women has been steadily rising.
Mirza and Gutta’s statements show, sadly, that women who brave tremendous odds, challenge stereotypes and fight social norms to become champions at their sport continue to face gross discrimination and exploitation. Sportswomen in India hardly ever get the recognition they deserve, are often underpaid and rarely sponsored, lack access to good facilities to train, lack enough representation and almost never have a say in decisions made by patriarchal sport authorities. Many not only face sexism but are also sometimes victims of sexual exploitation and abuse.
In 2010 the coach of the Indian national women’s hockey team, M K Kaushik, an Olympic gold medallist, was found guilty of using abusive and sexually coloured language with his players.
More recently the treatment of Pinky Pramanik, an Asian Games gold medallist, throws light on the humiliating and degrading treatment that women sportspersons often face. Insensitive authorities have allowed Pramanik’s privacy and medical confidentiality to be violated time after time. What is truly incomprehensible is how an MMS of a private physical test was made and then leaked, an obvious indication of the authorities’ failure to carry out the procedures in a dignifying manner.
These incidents are not just individual cases but a reflection of a greater systemic discrimination hardwired into our society and ingrained in our institutions.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination. India is a signatory to CEDAW, and ratified it in 1993.
India also set up in 2001 a National Policy for the Empowerment of Women to bring about gender justice and transform equality in terms of legislation into the practice of equality, aiming to achieve the advancement, development and empowerment of women in all spheres of life.
Yet attitudes and cultural practices continue to discriminate against women and hinder their advancement. Is India’s quest for global superstardom leaving half its population behind?

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