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News > Colombia

Colombia's VP Addresses Sexual Harrassment against Athletes

  • Colombian Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez (speaking) meets with soccer youth leaders to sign a pacto para promover a los talentos del fútbol y evitar cualquier tipo de abuso y acoso

    Colombian Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez (speaking) meets with soccer youth leaders to sign a pacto para promover a los talentos del fútbol y evitar cualquier tipo de abuso y acoso

Published 4 March 2019

Colombian Vice President will meet with the directors of the country's under 17 female soccer federation to discuss a sexual harrassment cases against the national team.

Colombian Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez will meet with the Colombian Football Federation (FCF) Monday to sign a pact against sexual harassment and corruption in the league after a sexual harassment case against a Under 17 (U17) team trainer was filed with the attorney general last week.

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Vice President Ramirez met March 4 with FCF president Ramon Jesurun, the Counselor for the Equity of Women, Ana Maria Tribin, and Colombian Family Welfare Institute director, Juliana Pungiluppi to discuss what Ramirez says is intolerable behavior by the nation’s soccer leaders.

"Our government we will not allow harassment or any abuse of our girls and boys. We will not tolerate this and insist that sports clubs have a greater commitment to the integrity of our children who want to play professional sports," said Ramirez in a statement prior to the meeting.

Allegations emerged last week when the League Against the Silence (LAS) released a story outlining how U17 physical therapist Sigifredo Alonso sexually harassed an underage female team member as late as January 2018. Alonso began by telling the youth, "you're very pretty, beautiful," but was fired at the insistence of the player's father.

However, other trainers with sexual harassing tendencies remained.

“A guy who had certain ways with the girls like pulling their ponytails, trying to kiss them, trying to be a father figure,” remained said Laura to League Against the Silence.

Laura, whose name was changed to protect her identity, said she was also harassed by U17 technical trainer Didier Luna between 2017 and 2018.

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According to Laura, Luna "told me he wanted to have something with me and that he could take me to great things in football." When she refused her superior then the work harassment began.

"I was overloaded with work. I was not allowed to speak at meetings. He screamed at me. At one point I asked him if he had any complaints with (my work performance) and he answered that it was personal" said Laura who began getting threats by phone when she anonymously complained about her colleagues behavior.

"After the accusations were made public an unknown person called me to tell me to be careful because they were going to send the toughest people of the Colombian Football Federation to investigate, and that in three days they would know if it had been me. That is coercion," Laura said.

Luna told LAS: "I have not received official notification of any investigation by the Federation or anyone," he said. However, he admitted he had heard about the allegations, but “didn’t pay attention to mere comments.”

Colombia’s attorney general's office confirmed to LAS it’s conducting two investigations into U17, one for labor harassment and the other for "aggravated sexual harassment by a minor."

But the problem of machismo and sexually repressive tactics against women within the U17 is not isolated, but normalized and pervasive.

A sports reporter told LAS it’s not unusual in the career of a sports player to be asked to give favors “of a certain kind: ‘I’ll keep you in mind, but give me money’. I’ve also heard of cases of sexual favors,” said the journalist.

In addition to the meeting Vice President Ramirez sent a letter to the U17 rejecting "any action that threatens the integrity and dignity of women athletes" and asked that its own investigation proceed "with speed."

At the meeting the vicepresident said she was signing the pact with federation leaders so that "there is awareness of women."

Attorney General Fernando Carrillo said "we can’t let this happen in any situation, least of all in sports. These scenarios are part of cultural pathology in this sexist country and limit women’s rights."

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