Women and Sports in India
For decades, sports in India have been dominated by males; be it cricket, hockey, football or athletics. But recent trends show that women's participation has undergone a significant growth. Despite this, the lack of research and knowledge of women’s involvement in this field poses a huge question for the society to answer.
Status of Sportswomen in India
The women have been facing discrimination for years due to social and religious reasons since the Vedic times. They are meted out as burdens for most of their lives. The sole purpose in life is considered to be a ‘proper’ housewife; let alone have their independent careers. This biased behaviour has led many women to sacrifice their dreams of playing on the field and choose a path more ‘feminine’ and ‘appropriate’ for them.
Due to these reasons, India has always remained far behind other countries in terms of women participation and celebration in sports. For example, in the 2012 Rio Olympics, 292 women participated out of which only 54 were Indian. Despite lack of female participants, they showcased world class performances by female athletes who have went on to become national icons. These include Sakshi Malik, P. V. Sindhu and Dipika Karmakar. The spectacular performance by the Indian women cricket team has surprised everyone as the team was adjudged runners-up in the World Cup making the country proud. Various sportswomen such as Saina Nehwal, Sania Mirza, etc. are role models for all.
But these achievements have failed to create hype for these women and they are continued to be neglected and ignored. Hopefully, the laurels brought home by these athletes would encourage parents to send their daughters and husbands would support their wives in pursuing their careers in this field.
Sex role and Stereotyping
One of the main reasons behind lack of female participation is the stereotypes that women face from the society. There are certain rules that women are expected to abide by. She is to be ‘feminine’ and should not indulge in any kind of heavy lifting or rigorous exercise. Being involved in sports is against her very existence and would threaten her marriage prospects as well. In country where young girls are instructed to sit and talk in a certain way, women wearing shorts and playing sports would endanger the very culture and values that our society bases its notions of an ideal women.
Just because a woman is sporty in nature, it would be wrong to assume that she does not embrace her femininity. The three-time WNBA MVP Lisa Leslie sums it perfectly, “I’m strong. I’m tough. I still wear my eyeliner.”[i]
As Swami Vivekananda said, “It is impossible to recollect about the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. It is unacceptable for a birdie to fly on only one wing.”[ii] The status of women should no longer be a paradox. She must be allowed to pursue her talent. In fact, she mustn’t need anyone’s permission to be who she wants to be. A woman with adequate support and help can go on to write history and make the nation proud. Sports can help to increase self-assurance by providing females prospects to acquire new skills, participate in constructive relations, obtain successes, and involve in volunteer service and can serve the nation in a better way.[iii]
Sport is universal in nature. It does not discriminate on colour, caste, creed, sex or race and so on. In earlier times, men used to participate in most of the games, sports and athletics, women face many restraints such as physical, mental, family, social, cultural, religious and so on. Later they also started active participation in all events. Our Constitution provides for equal rights to all women.[iv]
Hope for a Change
We may have all watched the Shahrukh Khan starrer ‘Chak De India!’. Characters in the film faced scorn from the Sport Association Committees and authorities along with quite evident disapproval from their family members. Portrayal of the Phogat sisters in ‘Dangal’ also aptly depict the struggles faced by women in the field of sports. The lack of sponsors for female sports go on to show the bias face by them. While male cricketers bag crores in endorsing products, many fail to even know the name of the Indian female cricket team captains name.
The accomplishments of our female athletes, the positive role played by media and change in the mindset of the people stands as a ray of hope for a transformation in the ambivalent attitude of our country towards participation women in sports and would lead to growth in celebration of these females as national icons.
[i] Leeor Bronis, 11 Powerful Quotes From Female Athletes To Get You Amped For The Super Bowl, http://elitedaily.com/women/female-athlete-quotes/1373774/.
[ii] Habeeb Husan, A Study on Female and Sports in India, https://ijosthe.com/a-study-on-female-and-sports-condition-in-india/.
[iii] Kumar, Rajan and Rajan, Sports Participation of Women in India, http://www.ijikc.co.in/sites/ijikc/index.php/ijikc/article/view/220.
Author: Kunika Khera
College: Army Institute of Law
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