Sri Lanka’s women’s national cricket team is a strong team. Previously viewed as the underdog of international competitions, they have recently emerged as a serious contender, and are currently ranked sixth in the world by the International Cricket Council.
But this week attention has been drawn to the Sri Lankan women’s cricket team for all the wrong reasons, after a committee investigation into the team revealed disturbing incidents of sexual harassment and abuse.
Evidence from the Sri Lanka Ministry of Sport has emerged that females were allegedly forced to perform sexual favours for officers in order to earn or keep their place on the team.
The investigation was originally sparked in November 2014, after Sri Lankan newspaper Divaina published reports that a player had been dropped from the team after refusing to have sex with officials.
The three-member committee ordered to investigate the incident submitted their findings to the Ministry last Wednesday. On Friday, the ministry released a statement confirming that the committee had “…found evidence of sexual harassment by members of the Sri Lanka cricket women’s management team against several members of the Sri Lanka cricket women’s team.”
Srilal Gomes, a spokesperson for the sports ministry, confirmed that two male cricket officials would be charged following the allegations: “This is a very serious matter and the next step will be to take internal disciplinary action in addition to a criminal prosecution under the penal code.”
Criminal prosecution will take place in line with both women and child protection laws in Sri Lanka.
“It is a shameful incident,” Sri Lankan Children’s Minister Rosy Senanayake told AFP journalists.
Senanayake is correct – this incident is shameful. It is disappointing, horrifying and tragic to think that professional women cricketers were allegedly selected not for their talent on the sporting field, but on how willing they were to please cricket officials with sexual favours.
It is reflective of the struggle that women’s sport has always faced. Female sporting professionals on a worldwide level still battle for the kind of attention and exposure that male athletes receive. Years of entrenched sexism against women in sport have meant that some of the world’s most talented female athletes still aren’t taken seriously for what they can actually do, whether it’s swimming, running, surfing or tennis.
In 2015, we live in a world where the Lingerie Football League is more popular than any other women’s football league. Where female athletes from all over the world feel the need to strip down to their underwear for advertising campaigns, or go completely naked for magazine shoots, because their sporting talent doesn’t garner enough attention – but their bodies do.
With this investigation comes the breaking down of one more inappropriate, sexual incident against our international female sporting stars. This investigation means that Sri Lankan women will hopefully be chosen for the cricket team based on their cricket talent, rather than anything else.
Hopefully it’s the sign of more positive things to come for women’s sport on a world level. Because our female athletes need to be seen as just that – athletes.