Gender Equality

Gender Bias and Pay Gap – Hurdles in the Development of Sports for Women

India U-17 Football Team [IMAGE SOURCE: AIFF MEDIA]

[Authors – Sanjana Sharma, a Third Year B.L.S LL.B student at Government Law College, Mumbai & Aishwarya Vardhan, a Fourth Year B.A LL.B (Hons.) student at Symbiosis Law School, Pune]


The gender pay gap in the country and even globally, is not a novel phenomenon. It is pervasive in a myriad of sectors and even after a history of resistance, it doesn’t seem to assuage. It is in fact, not an isolated concept, but one of the many branches of patriarchy in the world.

India currently ranks 112 in the Gender Pay Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum. Slithering down from its previous ranking, the country has a long way to go, in order to offer equality to all the genders in this sphere. Being masculine has always been intrinsically linked with grit and fortitude. This has led to the prevalence of masculine hegemony in several realms, especially those which require physical strength.

There can be no actual empowerment until females will be called the weaker sex and the LGBTQ+ community will be discriminated on the basis of their sexual orientation. Numerous individuals belonging to these genders are aggrieved of the dramatic gap in payment received by them, as compared to their male counterparts. It isn’t merely a man-woman tussle now. This game of tug of war now has more participants, one side of which has the heterosexual male gender and the other side has women and men of different sexual orientations, yet it is the former, which is the most potent.

This article specifically focuses on the payment norms and gender bias in the field of sports in India. It is emphasized that the disparity is not only unfair but also alarming; given how much we have progressed in this domain, leaving only this stone unturned. The lack of attention given to this issue coupled with the void of a codified statute to look into this particular subject-matter, stand in the way of bridging this discriminatory gap.


The general principle of equal pay for equal work was pronounced by the Supreme Court in the case of State of Punjab & Ors. V. Jagjit Singh and Ors. It aimed to do away with the practice of discriminatory payment to individuals who are employed for the same work.

However, when sports in India doesn’t adhere to its National Sports Development Code which inter alia, calls for protecting gender equality in the profession, let alone will it have regard to a general principle delineated by the Court.

Moreover, the question of disparity in payment arises from the level of commercialization of a particular sport. This means that equal, if not more importance is given to the display, sale and marketing of the teams and the sports events, to the sport on the playground itself. This trend leaves behind groups of sportspeople and sports teams which do not enjoy the popularity, and although it isn’t broadcasted in the media, it is clearly depicted in their paychecks.

Drawing less crowds is the factor responsible for this gap. While majority of the women stay aggrieved due to this, the former Indian cricketer Snehal Pradhan, believes that the disparity in only fair as the game rules differ for both the teams. Hence, there cannot be equal pay for unequal work. She further emphasizes that the women’s team needs to add more weight in order to reach the same pedestal. However, it is not only cricket where women are paid less. There are numerous other sports which account for this discriminatory practice. And if we see the larger picture, this happens in almost all the other sectors as well.

There are varying perspectives with regards to this issue; however, the only fair view can be the one which is in consonance with the principles of natural justice. And this can be achieved when there is a statute to regulate it and put an end to the prevailing discriminatory practices.

 In order to change what the country has been witnessing since decades now, there needs to be a significant change in our mindsets. The deep-rooted issue of gender inequality in the sporting ecosystem can be fought when people get rid of the dogmatic principles that have been governing their lives.

To understand why women are paid less than their male counterparts for the very same effort, if not more, it has to be understood how athletes make their money.

What comprises the total earnings of a sportsperson is the prize money combined with pay from teams/clubs they belong to, and endorsements. While 83% of sports now reward men and women equal prize money, there is a massive amount of difference in the pay checks provided to males and females. The game’s biggest stars who are mostly males pick up suckering pay checks while women don’t even get the bare minimum. It is indeed appalling how there is a humongous difference in treatment meted out to the athletes who play the same sport for the very same country.

One extensive reason for this woeful scenario is the substandard media coverage. Media being a central part of our lives today is a highly influential tool that includes inter alia – newspapers, television, radio and internet. While media is a prominent reason why sports clubs and athletes today enjoy massive fan following, there is an urgent need for media to re-examine its portrayal of sports women.  Statistics claim that 40% of all sports participants are women, yet women’s sports receive only around 4% of all sports media coverage. This depicts how abysmal the state of affairs is in the so called 21st century, where everyone boasts of equality and having come forward.

To add to this misery, the cynosure of the already insufficient coverage is not the athleticism but the femininity and beauty of female athletes. They are seen less for their achievements and more for their off the field endeavors. In an arena that is presided over by men both in terms of participation and governance, this representation is not only unfair and grossly negligent but also regressive. Not only does this depiction degrade women, but also makes people view women as inferior and incompetent individuals.

 In light of this subject and to combat gender disparity, a document named The International Charter of Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport has been adopted by UNESCO’s 38th General Conference which emphasizes on the rights of women and asserts that ‘equal opportunity to participate and be involved at all supervision and decision-making levels in physical education, physical   activity and sport, whether  for  the   purpose  of recreation, health promotion or high performance, is the right of every girl and every woman that must be actively enforced’.  


Other than media coverage, there are a multitude of other factors that are an impediment in bringing an end to the disparity and bridging the gaps. The notion of male superiority that has been ingrained in the brains of people is one such factor. Not only this, opposition from the family against playing any sport is a huge problem. To address these issues there ought to be awareness campaigns and workshops that emphasize on the importance of sports and how it makes a woman economically independent helping her earn for herself and also making a mark in the society.

Additionally, there is a clear need for policy initiatives and regulation framework to empower women as gender inequality continues to persist even against the backdrop of economic growth. One way of empowering women is giving them representations at every step of the hierarchy. Adequate female representations in the form of teachers, trainers and coaches might act as an instrument of change bringing about a paradigm shift in the status quo. Targeted investments, scholarships and incentives by the Government would make a great support and might prove to be an aid in alleviating financial problems that plague the Indian subcontinent.

Furthermore, the selection procedures ought to be fair and transparent. Training centers with adequate infrastructural facilities and sports equipment must be set up. Widening the perspective thereby including women in decision making and leadership positions in all public spheres would make a remarkable difference.

In order for India to become a more powerful nation that commands respect worldwide, and maintains its stance as a global leader, there is a need for the individuals and specially women to stand up for themselves and fight against the ill discriminatory practices, prominent bias and stereotypes. The idea of a wholesome nation can be turned into reality when women’s sport becomes a priority of policy makers and there is a comprehensive effort coupled with a consistent coverage on part of the media to build a positive and robust image of women athletes that encourages others to participate, and try for career in sports sans any inhibitions. It is of paramount importance that government and different stakeholders in Indian sporting culture give suitable platforms, equal opportunities and due representation to females while ensuring that policies are implemented to put women in parity with their male counterparts. Attitudinal shifts, fighting blatant discrimination, addressing gender inequality and diversity in all its forms and promoting sports at the grassroots level would be an appropriate start in the direction of bringing about a revolution, empowering the women and achieving a disparity free India. 

*For any query, feedback or discussion, the Authors could be contacted at [] & []

PREFERRED CITATION– Sanjana Sharma & Aishwarya Vardhan, Gender Bias and Pay Gap – Hurdles in the Development of Sports for Women, SLPRR <> July 21st, 2020.

Sanjana Sharma
Aishwarya Vardhan

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