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NHRC Issues Notice To Ministry, WFI Over Lack Of Panel To Address Sexual Harassment Charges

This notice comes at a time when several wrestlers, led by Olympic bronze medalists Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia, are protesting against sexual harassment by coaches and the president of the WFI.

Wrestlers protest at Jantar Mantar
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The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India has issued notices to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, the Sports Authority of India (SAI), the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), and several other national sports federations for not having a properly functional internal complaints committee (ICC) to address sexual harassment charges as required by law.

The NHRC has taken "suo motu cognisance of a media report that there is no Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) in the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) as mandated by the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) Act, 2013". The report further states that the wrestling body is not the only one that lacks a duly constituted ICC, and that 15 out of 30 national sports federations do not meet this mandatory requirement. According to the NHRC, if the media report is true, it would be a violation of the law and would impact the legal rights and dignity of sports persons.

The authorities have been asked to submit a detailed report within four weeks regarding the present status of their ICC and the steps taken or proposed to be taken to address the issue. The notice comes at a time when several wrestlers are protesting at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, demanding the sacking and arrest of WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over charges of sexual harassment of women grapplers.

Indian wrestlers, led by Olympic bronze medalists Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia, have been protesting since January against sexual harassment by coaches and the president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). Commonwealth Games women’s gold medalist Vinesh Phogat has also accused coaches and the WFI president of sexual harassment.

She said that at least 10 to 20 girls in the national camp have told her their stories. The protests resumed last month after the government allegedly failed to take action against the accused. The wrestlers had initially called off the protests in January after the government assured them that an oversight committee would look into the allegations.

However, Malik said that withdrawing the protests was a mistake as the report by the oversight committee was not made public and they believe that the culprits got a clean chit. In a letter to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) chief, the wrestlers alleged that Phogat was mentally harassed and tortured by the WFI president after she missed out on an Olympic medal in Tokyo in 2021, which almost led her to contemplate suicide. The letter also alleged financial misappropriation by the WFI with Singh at its helm.

(With PTI Inputs)

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