Sexual harassment issue in sports needs to be addressed, says All Women’s Action Society

Awam president Premalosani Arivananthan said gender-based violence in the Malaysian sports arena is alarming and must be addressed to build a safe and secure space for everyone. — Reuters pic
Awam president Premalosani Arivananthan said gender-based violence in the Malaysian sports arena is alarming and must be addressed to build a safe and secure space for everyone. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 9 — Gender-based violence (GBV), including sexual harassment, in the Malaysian sports arena is alarming and must be addressed to build a safe and secure space for everyone, said All Women’s Action Society (Awam) president Premalosani Arivananthan.

She said that according to research done by Kolej Poly-Tech MARA on 422 athletes in 2017, 15.9 per cent admitted to having experienced sexual harassment in sports, with almost half of them having represented the country in international meets.

More surprisingly, she said, male athletes were more vulnerable as research showed that 19 per cent of them experienced sexual harassment compared to 11 per cent of female athletes.

“About 28 per cent of the victims experienced physical and mental problems, meaning it also affects their performances in sports and career in the long run,” she said at the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signing ceremony between Awam and the Paralympic Council of Malaysia (PCM) here today.

Premalosani said the MoU would be the first step towards tackling GBV issues, such as sexual harassment, rape and domestic violence, with Awam providing training for PCM athletes, coaches and officials for a year.

She also revealed that, in general, GBV cases in Malaysia saw a steep rise during the Covid-19 pandemic period, with Awam receiving 191 reports via its Telenita helpline since the movement control order (MCO) was imposed on March 18.

“Compared to 2019, Awam received 195 cases throughout the year. In fact, from 2017 to 2019, we received an average of 100 to 150 cases per year, but this year we received over 190 cases in just six months,” she added.

Meanwhile, PCM president Datuk Seri Megat D Shahriman Zaharudin said the national para sports governing body was proud to be the first sports organisation to work with Awam in a bid to tackle sexual harassment issues, regardless of gender.

“This initiative has been taken to protect and ensure the safety of all parties involved in para sports in Malaysia, including athletes, coaches, team managers, technical officials and association administrators.

“PCM and Awam agree that it’s important to discuss sexual harassment issues openly despite it being a sensitive topic among women and the disabled,” he said. — Bernama

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