Thinley Namgay 

All sports organisations will work together with relevant partners to prevent and respond to harassment and abuse against participants according to the first safe sports policy (SSP) launched yesterday.

The policy mandates reports of harassment and abuse, and actions in a sport that compromise the safety of the participants, to be treated respectfully and investigated and acted promptly by appropriate authorities.

As per the SSP, members of the athlete’s entourage including officials, support staff, coaches, leaders, and instructors undergo criminal record checks and provide evidence of these to those responsible for hiring or recruitment.

“Individuals subject to complaints or allegations be offered due process with fair and transparent grievance and disciplinary systems, and with clear suspension, sanctions and reinstatement procedures,” the SSP states.

The policy also states that appropriate technology and communications have to be used to supplement support for athletes or anyone else wishing to make and pursue a referral about a suspected breach of safe sport.

Alleged incidents of harassment and abuse shall be reported either to persons designated by sports federations, associations, Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC) or Safeguarding Officers, Athletes Commission of Bhutan (ACB) and the Gender Equity Committee (GEC).

Using the reporting form victims can email or in-person report to relevant officials. A committee will review the complaint.

The BOC, ACB and the GEC introduced the SSP in Thimphu yesterday.  Since the inception of BOC in 1983, this is the first comprehensive SSP to safeguard all athletes and officials.

SSP was developed by the ACB and the GEC, with support from the Olympic Solidarity based on the command received from BOC’s President, His Royal Highness Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck in November 2020.

Officials also consulted the member affiliates of the BOC and subject matter experts of the International Olympic Committee to frame the SSP.

Currently, only the Bhutan football Federation has its SSP in place.

Globally, women athletes are the primary victims of sexual harassment, molestation, and eve-teasing by male athletes, coaches and officials.

GEC’s Chairperson Sonam Yangchen said the policy would ensure the safety of all athletes and sports. “The policy will also allow consistent, immediate and appropriate action if any issues arise.”

She also said the proactive approach to education and a comprehensive reporting system could also ensure safety in sports.

Lenchu Kunzang, a shooter, said: “It will protect especially the women athletes of Bhutan.”

Archer Karma said the SSP would encourage women to come forward since there are fewer women athletes in the country currently.

Cricketer Anju Gurung said it is vital for athletes, coaches and officials to engage more, understand and respect each other.