Linden students sensitised on sexual harassment in sports

DPI, Guyana, Sunday, May 20, 2018

Local Attorney, Leslyn Charles recently engaged Linden students at the Egbert Benjamin Conference Centre, in a discussion on the fight against sexual harassment in sports. Present, were Minister of Social Cohesion with responsibility for Culture Youth and Sport, Dr. George Norton, students, coaches, sports personalities and other officials.

Charles said sexual harassment in sports is a major issue which requires the attention and involvement of all. She cited international cases in the news including the recent gymnastic scandal in the United States.

In Guyana, Charles noted, there is the Prevention of Discrimination Act, (Part 3), which speaks to sexual harassment, however, she is unaware of fixed policies being in place with respect to local athletes. This, she noted, highlights the need to begin considering these measures. Coaches, she further noted, may have a certain amount of control because of their position of trust, but she urged them not to abuse that trust. Instead, she reminded, their conduct must be transparent at all times in addition to being cautious in their physical display of affection with their athletes. “So, as coaches, you should decide on a Code of Conduct and especially for female athletes…”

She further urged male coaches to always have a female nearby to tend to female athletes, to inform parents or guardians of timings for practice sessions as well as to put systems in place for athletes to get home safely. “…Now, the Sexual Offences Act is really dealing with our perpetrators and it’s protecting our children very well…You have been placed in a position of trust and at all times. You must execute your duties with a level of confidence being extended to the persons who have put their trust in you, the athletes themselves and the parents of those athletes”, Charles stated.

Parents, she noted, must be attentive to the signs and also to listen “…since sometimes parents are so focused on the excellence that they want for their children that they hear but they don’t listen…because you’re just pushing and pushing for excellence,  you miss all the important signs that something is going wrong with your child.”

She advised parents to have open relationships with their children and teach them the importance and value of their bodies. She implored, “Help them to understand that they have willpower and they should use it in the right way…parents should be their first line of defence”. Charles added that teachers too should get involved since in many cases which go to the court, the offences are initially reported to teachers.

In a message to everyone, she said, “Let’s do what we’re supposed to do or the law will intervene in a very positive way”. Charles said proper supervision must always be in place for children.

In a note to children, Charles encouraged them to be each other’s keeper and not to remain silent but to speak out, adding that there are agencies such as the Child Protection Agency with trained staff who will listen. “No one can harm you, the law will protect you. It is there to protect you…sexual harassment is bad, and we ought to put a stop to it…we ought to let those perpetrators out there know that we’re taking a very serious stand against sexual harassment.”

By Vanessa Braithwaite  

Images by Vanessa Braithwaite  

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