In days of Olympic feats that set precedents, the Constitutional Court of Colombia made a decision that represents a goal for machismo. The court protected the rights of women soccer players in the country against the misogynistic statements of a sports leader, but went further and ordered a series of measures that seek to remedy gender discrimination in women’s football.
In 2018, Gabriel Camargo, president of the Tolima Sports Club, the current champion of the men’s first division, told the media that the Women’s Soccer League was “a breeding ground for tremendous lesbianism,” that it would have no future and that the footballers were “more ‘tomatrago’ (drinkers) than men”, among other things. The Ombudsman’s Office filed a tutela to demand the right to good name and honor of the soccer players and other organizations joined the lawsuit.
Now, the Court not only obliges Camargo to offer an apology and retract at a press conference in which there must be female players, but also recognizes that women’s football in Colombia takes place in a context of structural discrimination against female soccer players, which is “a product of of naturalization and the consequent invisibility of sexist and misogynistic behaviors or attitudes ”.
Nina Chaparro, gender coordinator at the Center for Law, Justice and Justice Society Studies, assures that it is a historic decision. “The context for men and women footballers is very different. Since the 1990s, they have obtained minimum rights through multiple judicial decisions of the Constitutional Court ”, he explains. Thus, the judges have provided tools to balance the balance of power between male players, clubs and private regulatory agencies.
The reality that female soccer players have to dribble is much more complex. It is not only about pay disparity, but also sexual harassment, lesbophobia and little institutional and financial support. In 2019, several of them, led by Isabella Echeverri and Melissa Ortiz, launched their own revolution against machismo in soccer. The “superpoderosas”, as the current generation of Colombian internationals is known for their good results, denounced irregularities in the women’s team, lack of payments by the football federation, precarious uniforms and the obligation to pay for their own air tickets and accommodation during the calls.
In addition to the selection, the job insecurity extends to the professional women’s championship, which began to be played in 2017 and has always been haunted by the risk of disappearing amid multiple obstacles. Many of the players are not formally linked to teams, and those that are have contracts of just two months, which leaves them without access to the social security and health system in a sport where the risk of injury is around the corner. from the corner. “The gap is not only due to the amount of salaries, but also due to the conditions behind, the duration of the tournaments, which ranges between two and 2.5 months. Today, for example, there are only two teams that recognize the continuity of their players and keep their salaries beyond the moments of competitions ”, Manuela Acosta, player of the La Equidad club, tells EL PAÍS.
The duration of the tournament is one of its weaknesses, as well as the number of teams. While in a year women have 12 games, men play 60. “This contrasts with the conditions under which the calls of the men’s team take place”, indicates the sentence. For the court, in addition, this shows three things that impact women soccer players: “instability in the life project, oscillation in social security protection and low participation in sports.”
There are no clear data on how many female soccer players there are in Colombia. Some data indicates that there are about 11,000, but the reality is that today only 11 of the 36 available sports clubs compete in the professional women’s league. “Professionals are understood to be those that make up the squads that currently compete, but that category is ambiguous. It is a copy of the regulations for men according to which you need to play a minimum number of minutes (about 11 games) to be considered professionals ”, adds Acosta.
Against sexual harassment
Complaints about the work environment in recent years have opened the way to reveal cases of sexual harassment. A physiotherapist and two players of the U-17 women’s team pointed out the coach, Didier Luna, and the physical trainer, Sigifredo Alonso, for sexual harassment during the concentrations prior to the Uruguay World Cup, in 2018. Luna signed a preliminary agreement with the Prosecutor’s Office and was sentenced to a sentence of 28 months. To avoid cases like that, the constitutional court urges the Major Division of Colombian Soccer (Dimayor) and the Colombian Soccer Federation to implement a policy of “zero tolerance for sexual harassment.”
“This becomes the second decision of a high Court that evidences a situation of structural discrimination against women soccer players, protects their rights and opens the door for the judges to look closely at the power relations that the soccer authorities have in relation to the players, ”says Chaparro, from Dejusticia.
The first sentence also set a precedent. The Court favored María Paz Mora, a ten-year-old girl who participated with her team in a mixed soccer tournament, and he was disqualified for having a girl as goalkeeper instead of a boy. The Court concluded that this was a discriminatory position.
In the Latin American context, the Colombian ruling is added to cases such as that of the Argentine soccer player Macarena Sánchez, who sued her sports club to recognize her employment relationship and as a result the Argentine Football Association professionalized women’s football. But the struggles of the players occur in all countries.
In Colombia, Camargo had to pay 50 million pesos, about $ 13,000, for the grievances. In addition, you will have to create a program in your club to eradicate discriminatory practices, while the Ministries of Sports and Education, as well as the Council for Women’s Equality will have to design human rights programs to eliminate stereotypes and promote respect for women. women’s freedoms in sports venues.
Due to the ruling, Congress will also have to update the Sports Law in order to include guarantees for gender equality. The La Equidad player says it is encouraging but there is still “a lot of utopia.” “The most important thing is that suggestion that is made to evaluate the mechanisms that effectively ensure female participation, not only within the football leadership, but also in the technical fields, and to eradicate any discriminatory practice, not only in the football team. Camargo, but in all ”.
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