Low Female Participation in Sports in India

In India, Gender ratios in sports are highly skewed and the female participation in sports is marginal and insufficient. This issue should be analysed in the light of the below questions:

  1. What can be advantages of women participating in sports?
  2. What are the major constraints that led to highly skewed gender ratio in sports participation in India.
  3. What are the current government efforts towards improving the situation?
  4. What are way forward and suggestions?
What can be advantages of women participating in sports?

Participation of women in sports leads to not only their empowerment but also allows them to acquire individual competency, team & personality building and health improvement. This would lead to positive consequence for the family as well as the whole society. Sporting activities also help women to reconnect with the power of their own bodies. The various other benefits include, mental well being, independence, peace of mind, increased concentration, fame, discipline, reservations in jobs and educational institutions etc.

What are the major constraints that led to highly skewed gender ratio in sports participation in India.

The low female participation in sports is evident form that fact that only five women from India have been able to bring home Olympics medals so far {Karnam Malleswari, Mary Kom, Saina Newhwal, P.V. Sindhu & Sakshi Malik}. There are several constraints applicable to both women and men in sports. For example, the stipend paid to sportswomen (and men) is meagre. We should know that the stipend allotted for practice ranges from Rs. 8 to Rs. 80 per day which is too less. Similarly, the politics and favouritism in the selection procedure; lack of sports infrastructure; lack up funds and coaching related issues are common for both sportsmen and sportswomen.

However, the issues peculiar with sport women include socio-psychological problems; absence of family support in comparison to boys; poverty and economic reasons; security issues and issues of sexual harassment; domestic reasons such as those related to marriage, husband, children and in-laws; social taboos etc.

What are the current government efforts towards improving the situation?

There are some policy and administrative initiatives taken towards this. Firstly, the National Youth Policy, 2003 has recognized four thrust areas in which Gender Justice is one. Secondly, the National Commission for Youth (2004) analysed the participation of women in sports and observed that sports by and large have become an elite activity. The commission noted that the government campaigns such National Sports festival for women (launched in 1975) have been reduced to mere issuing of awards and subsequent selection of participants at the national level is done on an ad-hoc basis. Thirdly, there are some facilities of Sports Authority of India (SAI) and National Sports Federations (NSFs) for women. However, sports federations have been often under allegations of sexual harassment and gender related crimes. The current government has also launched a National Programme for Development of Sports (Khelo India) by amalgamation of the earlier schemes of Rajiv Gandhi Khel Abhiyan (RGKA), Urban Sports Infrastructure Scheme (USIS) and National Sports Talent Search Scheme (NSTSS). One of the major initiative under this programme is creation of sports infrastructure at mofussil, Tehsil, District, and State levels.

What are way forward and suggestions?

Like primary education, government should also make sports compulsory at least at the primary and secondary school levels. It need not be a competitive sport but a recreational healthy sport. Schools should be made to educate women over the health benefits of sports.

Next, the government should start a ‘Women’s Movement of Sport’. Under this women should be encouraged to play an organized team sport or even an individual sport from young age.

The predominance of male office bearers in state and national federations has to be changed. Rules have to be made to accommodate enough female office bearers. Similarly ex-players should be nominated to the federations like that of Indian Ladies Cricket Association. After making that change, it has been observed that the performance of Ladies Cricket has improved tremendously.

More and more women should be made as coaches and referees as this will make women happy and comfortable with female coaches. Also, infrastructure facilities like Sports clubs and centres, hostels with safe and hygienic facilities have to be created for girls.

The Ministry of Sports should establish a special cell that focuses on the ‘development of women’s sport’ in India. This cell should work with different stakeholders for the promotion of women’s sport in India.

A comprehensive talent search should be conducted all over the country covering mainly the rural and semi-rural areas. Awareness has to be created among the parents and girls regarding the facilities available for a girl player and about the importance of sports in the wellbeing of the girl students so as to bring change in attitude towards women’s participation in sports.

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