Gender-based violence in sport is under-addressed, EU study says

Photo: Thomas Quine/Flickr.


By Mads A. Wickstrøm
The European Commission publishes comprehensive study on gender-based violence in sport in an attempt to address the lack of international attention to the issue.

In a White Paper on Sport, issued by the European Commission in 2007, the need to protect athletes from different forms of gender-based violence is emphasized. However, to this date, no attempts have been made to measure the scope of gender-based violence in professional and grassroots sports across EU Member States. The aim of a recent study by the European Commission is to provide knowledge on the issue of gender-based violence in sport, and to make recommendations for future actions to prevent this type of violence.

The study focuses on relations between coach-athletes, peer athlete-athlete and sport-athlete (e.g. doctors, officials, managers) relationships. Furthermore, both female and male victims, as well as female and male perpetrators have been considered. Attention is, additionally, directed to children and youth. Lastly, the study includes violence against LGBTQI individuals.  

According to the study, there is a lack of awareness regarding existing legislation with EU Member States. As such, most types of gender-based violence in the context of sport can be prosecuted under existing legislation across the EU. However, the findings suggest that awareness within sport settings could be improved by establishing specific laws to regulate prosecution of gender-based violence in sport. Furthermore, policies that address gender-based violence in sport resides within several policy domains (e.g. justice, sport, welfare, youth, gender). Responsibility for the issue of gender-based violence in sport is, thus, spread over a series of policy areas and actors. According to the study, the fragmentation of responsibility results in a lack of leadership and ownership of the issue causing the problem to remain unrecognized and under-addressed.

The study presents three recommendations to address the lack of awareness and responsibility for the issue of gender-based violence:

  • The European Commission should establish a formalised network of experts to guide EU Member States in the implementation of gender-based violence prevention initiatives in sport.
  • EU Member States should develop a coherent national policy framework to fight gender-based violence.
  • Sport governing bodies and sport associations should act to promote gender equality and combat gender-based violence in sport.

Further conclusion and recommendations are made in the European Commission Study on Gender-Based Violence in Sport. The study was published ahead of the 2017 European Commission’s initiative for focused actions to fight violence against women.


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