Indian Female Wrestlers Rally Against Sexual Harassment, Demand Justice

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In a powerful display of solidarity and resilience, India’s top female wrestlers, including Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik, have taken a stand against sexual harassment within their sport. These celebrated athletes have sacrificed their training schedules and endured harsh conditions during a protest in the heart of Delhi, demanding justice for themselves and seven other female wrestlers who have accused the president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), Brijbhushan Sharan Singh, of sexual misconduct spanning over a decade.

Singh, a prominent figure within the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a five-term Member of Parliament, denies the allegations, dismissing them as baseless and part of a conspiracy against him. However, the wrestlers allege that the government and police have obstructed their efforts to initiate an investigation into Singh’s alleged crimes, leaving them feeling marginalized and discredited for speaking out.

Despite reporting the incidents of sexual harassment to multiple authorities, including the WFI, Indian Olympic Association, Ministry of Sports, and the police, the wrestlers claim that no action has been taken. Phogat, a decorated wrestler with medals from prestigious tournaments such as the World Championships, Commonwealth Games, and Asian Games, wrote a letter to the Indian Olympic Association, stating that she has endured mental harassment and torture at the hands of Singh.

Sakshi Malik, who became the first Indian woman to win an Olympic wrestling medal in 2016, expressed the frustrations faced by the group, asserting that their pleas for justice have been repeatedly ignored and silenced. She disclosed that in 2012, a group of junior female wrestlers attempted to file a complaint of sexual harassment against Singh with the police in Uttar Pradesh, but the case mysteriously vanished within 24 hours.

After months of seeking justice, the women’s initial protest caught the attention of the government, and they were promised an investigation by the Minister of Sports, Anurag Thakur. However, no report has been released since then, leading Malik to accuse the government of attempting to suppress their complaints. Only after the group approached the Supreme Court did the Delhi police, who fall under central government authority, finally register a case. Nevertheless, none of the women have been called to provide their testimony.

In April, the wrestlers returned to their protest at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, vowing not to cease until Singh is arrested. While Thakur denied any cover-up and affirmed that an investigation is ongoing, the wrestlers argue that authorities have taken advantage of their Olympic success while subjecting them to mental and physical torment for daring to speak out.

This case underscores the challenges faced by women in India when they speak out against sexual harassment, particularly when the accused hold positions of power. They often find themselves subjected to public smear campaigns or legal action. The ordeal endured by journalist Priya Ramani, who along with over 20 others accused a former minister of sexual assault in 2018, exemplifies the difficulties faced by victims. Ramani faced a two-year defamation lawsuit before eventually being vindicated.

The brave female wrestlers are risking their careers, reputations, and even their lives to raise awareness of this pervasive issue. Their fight for justice extends beyond their personal experiences, aiming to empower all women who have endured harassment by powerful men but have been unable to speak out.

In conclusion, India’s top female wrestlers are courageously demanding justice for themselves and their fellow athletes who have suffered sexual harassment. Their protest symbolizes a larger struggle against the culture of silence and impunity surrounding such misconduct. It is imperative that their allegations are thoroughly investigated and appropriate actions are taken to ensure the safety and well-being of athletes in Indian sports. Only then