Malaysia

Too many hurdles for athletes fighting sexual harassment, says PKR



PKR legal bureau head Fadhlina Siddiq said sporting bodies lack qualified experts to handle cases such as that of former national swimmer Cindy Ong.

PETALING JAYA: The sports industry does not have a clear and functioning policy to address sexual harassment in the sports community, says a rights activist.

PKR legal bureau head Fadhlina Siddiq said victims of sexual harassment in the sports community have a hard time lodging complaints as there are no clear guidelines and mechanisms on the matter.

“This includes a vague organisational structure on who to lodge the complaint. On top of that, victims have to go through unnecessary bureaucratic processes to ensure their complaints reach the relevant authorities, such as the youth and sports ministry.

“This puts unnecessary pressure on the victims,” said Fadhlina today at a legal forum organised by the PKR youth, legal and sports bureaus.

She said the sports community also lacks experts qualified to handle sexual harassment cases.

“Whether it is a coach or a sports committee, they must be trained to handle the complaints appropriately. We often hear that these respondents show a lack of empathy towards the victims. “It makes victims afraid to come forward.”

Fadhlina pointed out that sports are a male-dominated industry and about 90% of the higher authority in sports organisations are male. “There is an imbalanced gender ratio in the environment, which can lead to gender-based violence.”

She added that sexual harassment cases in the sports industry are often hidden or left unreported because victims are scared of the possible consequences, such as losing sponsorships.

“There isn’t enough data or many cases reported in the sports community, making it hard to establish preventive measures. Eliminating sexual harassment in this industry is an uphill battle.”

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Today’s forum was held in response to a recent exposé by former national swimmer Cindy Ong, who earlier claimed she had been sexually harassed during her time as a national swimmer.

Speaking at the same forum, Ong said she felt liberated after sharing her experience as a victim of sexual harassment.

Recently Ong spoke out about how she had encountered sexual harassment and assault over the years and related how a national coach came into her room when she was in her teens and told her to take a nap before a competition. He then sat next to her and patted her.

Ong revealed that the coach had attempted to harass her again when she was in her 20s. “I decided to share my experiences to raise awareness among young athletes,” she said.



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