At least five cases have been reported in 2022 of child sexual abuse in private coaching institutes offering various sports-related activities, none of which are registered under a regulatory body. Many of these training institutes are located in the private homes of coaches, and the reported abuse so far has occurred in the homes of the coaches. There are no set minimum standards with regard to the quality of training, qualification of the trainer, maintenance of records as well as the fees charged by the said institutes. In this regard, the Goa State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (GSCPCR) contacted Puneet Kumar Goel, Chief Secretary, Government of Goa.
Chairperson of GSCPCR Peter F Borges says in the letter, “Child safeguarding and protection in sports has been given too little attention for a considerable amount of time. The most common reactions being that it does not happen, is someone else’s responsibility or is an isolated incident.”
There is both a preventive and reactive component to safeguarding children; ensuring effective policies, practices and procedures are in place to limit the harm occurring as well as having measures in place to report, investigate and deal with suspicions and incidents.
Every day children take part in sports; the activities may be social or competitive and may take place in schools, clubs and other private institutes. A large number of staff, parents and volunteers support, train and encourage children of all levels. Looking at the multitude of settings and stakeholders, the field becomes large and diverse. For effective programme implementation, safeguarding procedures need to be adapted to the setting and target group to ensure all children participating in sports have a positive experience.
Additionally, vulnerable children are those that do not always have access to the same choices due to a disability or impairment; a situation that results in an increased risk of experiencing harm or abuse.
Under the new POCSO rules, any institution housing children or coming in regular contact with children, including schools, crèches, sports academies or any other facility for children must ensure a police verification and periodic background check of every staff member.
It is recommended that:
1) All clubs and private coaching institutes offering any sports-related training in the state be identified and brought under a regulatory body at the earliest.
2) Minimum standards be formulated for ensuring appropriate admission procedures, regulation of fees, etc to provide a safe, secure and healthy environment for the all-round development of children, with a prime focus on training in sports.
3) A child protection policy be formulated with guidelines, listing all aspects which might directly or indirectly affect the safety, security and healthy environment for the all-round development of children, with a prime focus on training in sports. There should be constituted ways to determine and check screening and selection procedures, as coaches are the first line of defence in determining who is permitted to interact with children.
4) Guidelines for trainees and sportspersons to safeguard them from a high-risk environment for misconduct and sexual abuse.
Chief Secretary Puneet Kumar Goel has been requested to send an Action Taken Report (ATR) within 4 weeks on the recommendations made, including specific measures undertaken and implemented to protect children in the above context.