This has been a busy week in the fight against corruption and cheating in sport. In South Africa Gulam Bodi was banned from cricket for 20 years (five of them suspended if he agrees to take part in anti-corruption education). Bodi who played three times for South Africa was famous for keeping Kevin Pietersen out of the KwaZulu-Natal team therefore (if the myth is to believed) causing the latter to emigrate to England in 2001. But now Bodi will be linked with corruption having admitted to “contriving or attempting” to fix matches in the 2015 Ram Slam, South Africa’s domestic 20 20 competition. His 20 year ban was his punishment.
Meanwhile in New Zealand a convicted cheat – Mohammad Amir of Pakistan – has been making his international comeback after being given a five year ban for spot fixing in 2010. His comeback has not been universally welcomed. Plenty of people thought he should have been banned from cricket for life and some of the crowds in New Zealand have booed him. More seriously the stadium announcer at Westpac Park in Wellington Mark McLoed was reprimanded by New Zealand Cricket (NZC) for playing a cash register sound effect during one of Amir’s spells in the third 20 20 international. Amir can expect more of the same when Pakistan tour England in summer 2016 especially as England’s fans and press are more hostile to match fixers than their equivalents in other countries.
It is not just cricket though. This week UK Athletics are trying to ban first time drug cheats for life by making athletes waive their right to represent the UK if they are subsequently caught using performance- enhancing drugs. If they don’t they can’t represent the UK which is to my mind blackmail. Now the UK used to ban drug cheats from the Olympics for life but were forced to drop life bans when the courts ruled it illegal. Now showing breathtaking arrogance UK Athletics are using blackmail to bring life bans back. The Government should order the arrest of UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner and prosecute him for contempt of sport, hit UK Athletics with 83% tax and cut off funding. UK Athletics as like all sport shows total contempt for the law and should be forced to obey it by being hit in the pocket.
But not all sports bodies hand out draconian punishments. Also this week the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC) took no action against Tyson Fury (see previous post “A Tale of Two Awards”) over his sexist and homophobic remarks – except to reprimand him. Yet if he had taken drugs or fixed a fight he would have been banned for years maybe for life.
Another example was convicted rapist Ched Evans who would have back in football after serving a two and a half year sentence but for public uproar. Yet the sentence Evans received was less than Amir and Bodi’s bans never mind the life ban UK Athletics wants. And if he had taken drugs or fixed a match the FA would have banned him for years maybe for life.
This is the hypocrisy of sport. What I would call crimes against sport (match fixing, drug taking) are taken seriously and produce long maybe even life bans while crimes against society (rape, sexism/homophobia, domestic violence) are treated as less serious. This reflects the dominance of old, white men in sport plus also the thought of sport that it is above the law and can do whatever it wants. Time for a change.
Despite what I wrote about UK Athletics I am in favour of drug cheats and match fixers being banned for life and the Government should change UK law if that is what it takes to make life bans legal. But in return sport should be forced to ban rapists, woman beaters and people who make sexist/racist/homophobic remarks for life as well. Most people who are not sport fans would regard rape and domestic violence as more serious as match fixing and drug taking. Sport should be forced to accept this. Until it agrees match fixers and drug cheats should not be banned for life if rapists and woman beaters are not.
To say 2014 was not a good year for gender equality in the UK is an understatement. A report for the United Nations Security Council by Rashida Manjoo said the UK was the “most in your face sexist country” with a “boys club sexist culture”. That of course is a matter of opinion. What is a fact is that last year the UK slipped to 26th place in the World Gender Equality League – below the likes of Rwanda and Burundi! – a big fall from 9th in the first table back in 2006.Also last year I read one of the most horrific things I’ve ever read. It was in a Daily Telegraph interview with Everyday Sexism founder Laura Bates and was a quote from an unnamed girl who said :
I am scared of going to university when I am older. Not because of exam stress but because of the horror stories of girls that have been subjected to assault for ‘banter’. I am scared. I am actually scared of being a female (my emphasis).
To my mind any man reading that should be ashamed. I know I am. And even worse her fears are justified. A survey in the Daily Telegraph (January 14th 2015) said “A third of female students in Britain have endured a sexual assault or unwanted advance at university”. And it gets worse. Another survey last year said that “A third of girls are groped or suffer some form of sexual assault while still at school”. What is wrong with this country?
There are two problems here. The first is the UK’s awful rape conviction rate. The Daily Telegraph (January 29th 2015) said that 85,000 women are victims of rape here every year. Of those rapes just 15,670 (18.4 per cent) were even reported to the police. Of that number 2,910 (18.6 per cent) got to court and of those just 1,070 got convictions. That is 36.8 per cent of those that went to court, 6.8 per cent of those reported to the police and just 1.3 per cent of all rapes. The Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales Alison Saunders sated that “men accused of rape will need to convince police that the woman consented”. That is all very well but the problem is not just with the police but with the UK public. A lot of people in the UK amazingly still think that if a woman wore a short skirt or dress that “she was asking for it”. Nonsense. Women should be able to wear what they want without it being seen as an open invitation to rape. Or if a women was drunk she is in some way to blame. Again tripe. Or if a woman doesn’t resist her attacker it means she was happy to accept sex. But some women would just freeze with fear when attacked. Some might take the pragmatic view if they try to defend themselves they’ll get killed. It didn’t mean they agreed to be raped!
But why do the public think like that? To my mind they are brainwashed by our awful media. A lot of the right wing press in the UK is full of sexist sewage. The Sun and the Star still have naked women for goodness sake. And in an awful editorial (January 30th 2015) the Daily Telegraph stated “A more honest approach (to rape) would be to consider once again whether a lesser offence of date rape is needed”. Nonsense. Rape is rape. It doesn’t matter whether its done by a stranger or someone the woman knows (which is the case in 90 per cent of rape cases). Just because a woman agrees to go on a date and is then raped it does NOT make it less serious than any other kind of rape. Good god. No wonder people think like that when the press is pumping such sexist propaganda to them on a daily basis.
So how to cut down the number of rapes/sexual assaults? We must improve the UK’s awful rape conviction rate. One way of doing that is to get rid of juries. It is clear that if a woman wore a short skirt/was drunk/didn’t resist her attacker a big group of the public(by no means all male) won’t have sympathy for her. Rape victims should not be at the mercy of the prejudices of the public. Rape trials should be heard before judges and magistrates who know the law and are would not be prejudiced against victims. Secondly the press have to be dealt with. The appeasement of Rupert Murdoch must stop. Page 3* should be banned and the likes of the Daily Mail should be stopped from publishing sexist sewage.
Long term however the key is to quote Tony Blair “Education, education, education”. We men have to learn that women aren’t playthings that we can treat whatever way we like. We have to understand they are human beings with a right to go through their lives without being subjected to rape/sexual abuse. Boys have to be taught at school that they should treat girls the way they want to be treated. if we teach them young that women aren’t our sexual playthings they hopefully will carry that on into adulthood. And then in the future maybe we can look forward to a UK where the rape conviction rate is zero. Not because of the prejudices of the police or the public. The rape conviction rate will be zero because men will have learned to respect women and there will be no rapes committed. It might seem like a dream. But there is no reason why we shouldn’t aim for a world where that happens.
*Page 3 is the page of the UK’s gutter press that has naked women on it.