Safeguarding India Women Wrestlers May be Key to Federation’s Return

Sat Dec 23 2023
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NEW DELHI: On Saturday, the global governing body of the sport stated that to lift its suspension, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal, must prioritize safeguarding women wrestlers.

In August, the Wrestling Federation of India faced suspension by the United World Wrestling (UWW) due to a delayed election. This delay stemmed from the UWW’s request for a new election following allegations against the then-president, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, a member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, who was accused of sexual harassment and criminal intimidation.

Despite Singh’s denial of the allegations and his release on bail, the recent victory of a candidate supported by him in the latest election has sparked renewed protests. This has resulted in actions such as top female wrestler Sakshi Malik quitting the sport in protest, and male wrestler and fellow Olympic medalist Bajrang Punia returning one of India’s highest civilian honors.

“Conditions to address the concerns about safeguarding could also be requested,” a UWW spokesperson said, when asked about the possibility of lifting the suspension on the WFI.

“We are still gathering feedback from representatives onsite to determine if the conduct of the election was valid and well organised,” the spokesperson said by email.

“Before we can lift the suspension, we need to receive the official information from the national federation and the confirmation by the NOC (National Olympic Committee) and the Ministry of Sports.”

In May, wrestlers in New Delhi organized a sit-in protest against Singh, where they were persuaded to abandon their intention of discarding their medals into the River Ganges.

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