Sexual harassment panels: NHRC notice to sports bodies, ministry
Giving the federations four weeks to submit detailed reports, the NHRC said non-compliance of the PoSH law was a “matter of concern” which could “impact the legal right and dignity of sportspersons”.
Taking suo motu cognizance of The Indian Express report highlighting non-compliance of provisions under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) law by national sports federations, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Thursday issued notices to the erring sports bodies along with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.
The NHRC also sent notices to the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).Giving the federations four weeks to submit detailed reports, the NHRC said non-compliance of the PoSH law was a “matter of concern” which could “impact the legal right and dignity of sportspersons”.Last month, the MC Mary Kom-led committee formed by the government that looked into allegations of sexual harassment by some of the nation’s top wrestlers against Wrestling Federation of India chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh pointed out the absence of an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), as mandated by the 2013 PoSH Act.
On May 4, an investigation report revealed that the wrestling body wasn’t the only one violating the law. Sixteen out of 30 sports federations — of disciplines in which India has participated in the 2018 Asian Games, the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and last year’s Commonwealth Games — did not have a fully-compliant ICC.
In a statement published on its website on Thursday, the NHRC said: “The Commission has observed that the contents of the media report, if true, amount to a violation of a law, and thus is a matter of concern as it may impact the legal right and dignity of the sportspersons.”
Besides the Secretary, Department of Sports (Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs), WFI, SAI and BCCI, the NHRC has also sent notices to the governing bodies of 15 other federations, which are of the following disciplines: handball, volleyball, basketball, weightlifting, yachting, gymnastics, table tennis, billiards and snooker, kayaking and canoeing, judo, squash, triathlon, kabaddi, badminton and archery.
“They have been asked to submit detailed reports within 4 weeks including the present status of the ICC in their organization as well as the steps taken or proposed to be taken to address the issue,” the NHRC said.
According to the law, the ICC needs to have a minimum of four members – at least half of them women – of whom one shall be an external member, preferably from an NGO or an association that works for women’s empowerment or a person familiar with issues related to sexual harassment, like a lawyer.
After reviewing the official declarations of all 30 federations, The Indian Express found that five federations, including wrestling, don’t even have an ICC; four don’t have the stipulated number of members; another six lacked the mandatory external member and one federation had two panels but neither had an independent member.