Sex and sleaze
The scandal that’s rocking women’s cricket in Sri
Sexual exploitation of sports women has gone largely underreported
though it remains a significant reason for women to feel discouraged
from being actively engaged in sports. Dhaneshi Yatawara delves into the
recent sex scandal that rocked the island’s women cricket
The sex scandal involving Sri Lanka’s women’s cricket team brings to
light how unsatisfactory – and unsporty – the game’s administration had
The recently concluded inquiry is likely to cause heads to roll and
administrative loopholes to be tightened, according to insiders, as
follow up actions are being lined up.
The recent sex scandal has brought to light a number of issues, in
addition to sexual harassment, such as the absence of a female manager
for the team, rampant favourtism, the unsatisfactory situation that
prevailed in the selection of players, all of which contribute to the
widely prevalent perceptions of favouritism and bias in Sri Lanka
women’s cricket, the island’s most popular sport.
Sports authorities have already promised action against two men
managing the women's cricket team following allegations that they
demanded sexual favours from team members to guarantee their
positions.An independent panel of inquiry last November commenced
investigations amidst allegations of sexual bribes being demanded from
women players by their male selectors and managers and refusal often
resulted in players being dropped.
Last October, an unnamed senior female cricketer was quoted by the
media, alleging that selectors and managers were ‘habitually’ demanding
sexual favours from women cricketers in order to be included in the
Both reports concluded that there had been a few incidents of sexual
harassment which were committed by two male officials but that there was
no evidence of any physical intimacy and therefore, no grounds existed
for initiating criminal proceedings. “Administrative processes will
follow,” an insider said.
There were incidents of improper conduct on the part of another male
official which did not amount to sexual harassment, according to the
findings, and as all three officials who were identified in the reports
no longer function in their previous positions due to expiry of
contracts in April, there was a problem in taking action against them
for past action. No allegations were made against any of the coaches or
against Varuna Waragoda and Uvais Karnain, who continue to serve as
Selectors of the women’s cricket team.
The three-member committee
headed by Retired Supreme Court Judge Nimal Dissanayake handing
over the report to Minister of Tourism and Sports Navin
Meanwhile, Sports and Tourism Minister Navin Dissnayake claimed that
he was determined prevent such incidents and strict action would be
taken against anyone who violates professional conduct in the future.
“We will ensure there is no repetition and that perpetrators are brought
to book,” Dissanayake said. Sidath Wettimuny, Chairman of the
nine-member Interim Committee, said the recommendations will be
implemented in the near future and will be treated with the seriousness
they deserve.Wettimuny said that both reports referred to incidents of
sexual harassment and improper conduct. “The Interim Committee suggested
the appointment of a female manager as a matter of priority for the
women's cricket team and this should happen,” he said.
Gwen Herath, a pioneering spirit in women’s cricket in Sri Lanka and
former President of Sri Lanka Women Cricket Association, said she is
shocked and saddened by what appears to have transpired in the island’s
Herath who insisted that the women’s cricket team too should accept
some responsibility for the current issues, claimed that she would not
have been able to push Sri Lanka’s women’ cricket towards ICC status, if
a similar situation existed during her time.
The only Sri Lankan woman so far to have occupied a seat at the
International Cricket Council panel, Herath said the managers at that
time were strict disciplinarians and did not allow the players to divert
their attention from the game.
“This is why the Sri Lankan women’s team was able to secure the sixth
place in our debut World Cup match in 1997. Many more victories
followed. If a cricketer breached discipline, she would have lost her
place,” said Herath. Whether you are a man or a woman, if there is non
-compliance with the disciplinary code, that team will lose.
The Sri Lanka Women Cricket Association selected girls from
outstations and they were very ‘raw’ when they commenced their careers
in cricket, Herath said.
“Unlike today, those days, some the girls we chose did not know the
basics of the game. But we trained them well and they performed well.
That is because we were very strict on disciplinary matters,” explained
“Those days, the women players really did not know where cricket
could take them. But today’s women cricketers have that understanding
and they must value the chance they have to become professional sports
women,” she added.
“Everybody cannot win and everybody will not lose too. Players must
also bear in mind that they will have to handle multiple situations and
to refer incidents of this nature to the authorities, for appropriate
action. They also must maintain good discipline and understand the
importance of representing a country. It is about good sporty
representation and not about shopping and fun,” stressed Herath.
Meanwhile, State Minister of Child Affairs and women’s activist, Rosy
Senanayake has come out with a strong demand for justice and action
“There should be a strict code of ethics within sports bodies as well
as all organizations, to ensure professionalism. This should include
anti-sexual harassment policies with penalties specified, “Senanayake
“Being women, it is very important for us to be in situations where
we are not sexually harassed. We don’t want to be demanded sexual
favours in order r to secure our places within organizations or sports
I acknowledge that both men and women could be subjected to sexual
Therefore, it is important to have a mechanism to prevent such
issues,” said Senanayake. Commending the officials in the cricket field,
Sri Lanka’s number one sport in terms of popularity and outreach,
Senanayake noted the conducting of prompt investigations.
“This should be followed by strong action against perpetrators,” she
said, adding that, instead of judging and condemning other women, it was
important for women to extend support to other women to help them
overcome various difficulties, on and off the field.
Keeping a close eye - ICC
The allegations as well as the investigation results are being keenly
followed by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
Commenting on the Sri Lankan women’s cricket team saga, a
spokesperson for the ICC told the Sunday Observer that ICC was closely
monitoring the situation and the actions taken by the local
“The ICC is aware of the allegations as well as the findings of the
investigation reports, the spokesperson said in an e mail.
Preventive action - SLC
In a statement, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) stated, it had received a
report by the Committee of Inquiry appointed in November 2014 by the
then Minister of Sports and a report by lawyer Manoli Jinadasa, who was
appointed by SLC to investigate and report on allegations of sexual
exploitation of some women cricketers.
The said Committee comprised Justice N. E. Dissanayake, retired Judge
of the Supreme Court (Chairman), Tharangani Neenawinna Dissanaike,
Public Trustee and Aloka Bandara, Director of the Combined Services of
the Ministry of Public Administration.
“The Committee of Inquiry has investigated and reported on alleged
incidents of sexual harassment and improper conduct said to have been
committed in 2013 and 2014 by some officials handling women’s cricket.”
It added that there had been a few incidents of sexual harassment
which were committed by two male officials but concluded, “there was no
evidence of physical intimacy” by any of the three men, none of whom
have been named in the report.
Further, it added that “both reports have highlighted the
unsatisfactory situation that prevailed in the election and other
aspects related to women’s cricket and the widely prevalent perception
of favoritism and bias.”
SLC added that the investigation had determined that whole two male
officials have sexually harassed the women players while the third was
guilty of improper conduct, not amounting to sexual harassment.