THE Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC) on Friday hosted an online conference on the importance of promoting gender equality in the fight against sexual harassment and violence against women in sport.
The webinar was part of the women’s month commemorations.
The webinar was held by the LNOC’s gender equality and diversity commission.
Acting LNOC chief executive officer ‘Mathato Makhorole said the conference was meant to ensure promotion of zero gender-based violence through sport.
“We are saying enough is enough on gender-based violence (GBV),” Makhorole said.
The conference revealed that GBV exists in and outside sport but they are not reported.
LNOC president ‘Matlohang Moiloa Ramoqopo said athletes are afraid of reporting harassment because they are scared of losing positions in their respective teams.
Ramoqopo said the lack of the female representation in decision-making positions in the country’s contributes to the escalating rate of GBV.
“We must all act to promote a safe sporting environment for everyone. Protection of athletes is key and to achieve that, we must increase women representation in decision-making positions.
“Gender inequality in sports perpetrates GBV in sports. Again, the nature of sport being male-dominated is challenge… this also forces parents to be reluctant to permit their children to join sport,” Ramoqopo said.
She said due to GBV, young female athletes dump sports thereby negatively affecting the country’s sports development.
It is therefore, the LNOC and the national federations’ task to encourage athletes to report any form of harassment.
She also said the lack of clear reporting systems could also be the attribute for the reluctance to report cases.
“We need education and clear independent reporting systems and we must draft policies that will tackle all forms of harassment in sports. That means we must amend the LNOC constitution to come up with an umbrella policy to guide national federations in drafting their own policies,” Ramoqopo said.
For her part, Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Bohang Lintle Phasumane said there were discrepancies between the number GBV occurrences and the number of cases reported.
“There are many domestic and gender-based violence occurrences we see on different platforms like social media but very few are reported.
“The victims are afraid of re-victimisation while the other reason is pride. Economic dependency and unfavourable reporting systems are the other reason for which victims do not report.
“It is high time that we change our reporting systems and also to empower women and girls,” Phasumane said.
All the challenges are worsened by the lack of GBV laws since parliament is yet to pass the Domestic Violence Bill into law.
Advocate Lebophilane Kometsi said the unavailability of the domestic violence laws was a major challenge.
If the bill was to be passed, then it would force the courts to act decisively against perpetrators.
“The available laws are not diverse enough to give remedy to different types of harassment,” Kometsi said.