The sex scandals that have rocked hockey and weightlifting are "scary and shameful", says Khel Ratna awardee woman boxer M C Mary Kom, who feels male coaches should be kept away from female athletes at all times other then training.
Speaking to the news agency, the 25-year-old four-time world champion said although she has never encountered sexual harassment in her sporting career, it remains an everyday reality for all the women in the country.
"Whatever has happened in hockey is shameful and scary. When I first read about it, I was shaken. This was unexpected and the thought which scares me most is that it might be happening in every sport including my own," the pin weight 46 kg boxer from Manipur said.
"It's just not sports, sexual harassment is a harsh everyday reality for any woman in India. Girls should be protected. Female athletes should be made to feel safe in camps and training areas," she added.
Mary Kom said having women coaches at the helm can help but she has no issues with men either provided safeguards are in place to prevent harassment and exploitation.
"Ideally, women should be chief coaches when it comes to women's sports but I don't mind male coaches either as long as there is no problem," the mother of two said.
"I feel male coaches and female athletes should not mix beyond the training time. Male coaches should be lodged in separate hotels when they are with a women's team. In camps, they should be staying away from stadiums where women are lodged. This can surely help in preventing such disgraceful episodes," she suggested.
Mary Kom was among the boxers who in 2002 refused to train at a camp in Hisar after an intruder misbehaved with one of the campers and she said the incident highlights the threats a woman athlete faces.
"Safety comes first. Unless we feel secure, we can't be expected to give our 100 per cent. That was a scary incident and we put our foot down demanding security and we managed to get it," she recalled.
The diminutive boxer said federations should act quickly and fairly while dealing with incidents of sexual harassment as such episodes don't just scar the victim but her teammates as well.
"As a woman athlete, I felt ashamed when I first heard of the scandal in hockey and weightlifting. That's the impact such an episode has. It doesn't just kill the morale of the victim but also the other members of the team," she said.
"That is why, it is important that the Federations do their job and act promptly. They should ensure that the victim is not traumatised and justice is done quickly," she added.