Every time I read about our sports women winning one more medal, I feel both happy and angry, happy for their talent and hard work bringing them success and angry for all the hardships and discrimination they have to still face. Happy that so many of them are now world-class performers but angry that their prize money is still less than men.
Though we are in the 21st century, where the world has moved ahead in every aspect of science and technology, and other fields, we still fall grossly short in many aspects, especially when it comes to gender equality across the world. Let us look at sports. What is the situation today?
The recent excellence by Indian women in Olympics has been an icebreaker moment for all of us. Women athletes participated in almost all the ‘male’ sports – soccer, ice-hockey, weight lifting, pole-vaulting etc… Women being multitalented are managing their studies, sports, family all at once. But the sad part is girls and women still represent a tiny minority amongst the athletes today. How many of us will remember that Harmanpreet Kaur scored a penultimate ball six to give India their first ever Women’s trophy recently? On the other hand how many have forgotten the sixes that Yuvraj Singh scored years back?
In school many of us loved to play and do physical activities, but how many of you girls could actually think of making it as a career? Because of social norms and the patriarchal system that we are living in, sports as a career is still a dream for many girls in our country!!!
The biggest and common thing that sports women face is – Sexism. On field, during training, everywhere they are objectified and treated like an accessible girl in their sportswear. Many women athletes have made statements at least once regarding the sexual harassment they face. The coaches are generally male who again look down upon the talents and potential among the women and take opportunity of their power and position. In May 2015, a 15 year old female athlete committed suicide because of sexual harassment by seniors. The women coming out against such incidents get no justice, just like any other common girl. Should the body become a weakness for someone when it is the strength of a person?
Women are still not taken seriously when they wish to become athletes. The pressure of higher education, taking up a job and marriage is there on every girl but girls are also blackmailed by saying that if they choose sports career nobody will marry them. They face all such hurdles which causes them mental issues, high stress levels, and demotivation. Many a time situations arise when women playing cricket have to train themselves with the boys because of the lack of a proper system in place by the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) for women.
Why are safe spaces and protective measures for women athletes still lacking? Why are there comments on the dress code of a woman athlete? Why is it hard for women even today to succeed and why are there hardly any women coaches?
Before we take any view on this let us look at some of the facts on the world scale.
1. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, male athletes get $179 million (12,64,73,34,500 Rs.) more in athletic scholarships each year than females do.
2. The difference in amount of prize money paid to men and women runs in millions.
3. There are 2million more men than women taking part in sport at least once per week.
4. Only 0.4% of the total commercial investment in sport goes into women’s sport.
5. Just 5% of sports media coverage features women.
6. For every 53 articles written about sporting men, there is just one about a woman.
7. Women in Iran are forbidden to enter stadiums to watch sport. If they are found they are be arrested.8. Out of 100 girls only 5 may pursue sports as a career.
Despite outstanding performance by PV Sindhu, Sakshi Malik, Dipa Karmakar and many more, we have not seen extensive participation by women in sports. The importance given to women’s cricket is not equal to that of men’s cricket. The same is the case in any sport. There is lack of encouragement and development for women in sports. Women face more criticism on losing. Adequate investments and sponsorships for men are far from adequate and most athletes have to spend money from their own pocket.
The condition of women athletes is many times worse. Sports equipment is not provided by the SAI (Sports Authority India) and other sports federation for months until before the match. It is nothing new that the sports people in our country have been struggling to even buy running shoes. No proper supplements are provided by the government. As a result several athletes end up buying supplements on their own. Without being aware of it, they end up consuming banned substances and lose not only their careers but also their reputations when they are declared to be doping.
Don’t you think the problems and discrimination faced by Indian sports women is faced by women in our society in almost every field? So, the fight of Indian sports women is really a part of the bigger fight we women have to wage to build a society where there is no discrimination based on the gender.
I think even men should join women in the fight to build such a society. After all man and woman are the two pillars of a society. We need both pillars to be strong to build a happy and strong society. You are wondering how a society of our dreams will stand on two just pillars? Such a society will be just and equal, free of ‘unch-neech’, provide equal opportunity to all. These values will be the third and very strong pillar.
Come, join me in this fight.