At a glance

Gender Equality Strategy

Strategic Objectives

Gender Equality Programme


Sport without fear - our concern, our response

a Parallel session by the Council of Europe at the

6th International Working Group (IWG) World Conference on Women and Sport

Saturday 14 June 3.45 – 5.15 pm, Finlandia Hall (Helsinki, Finland) 

While sport provides a powerful tool to empower women, for promoting greater equality between women and men, as well as challenging gender stereotypes and the devaluation of women and girls, the sad reality is that women and girls do not always have the opportunity to practice sport in a safe environment in which their dignity in respected. Practicing sport may lead to greater exposure to particular forms of gender-based violence or sexual exploitation and abuse by peers, coaches or fans. Moreover, overtly sexualised images of women athletes may incite sexual harassment, lead to poor body image, anxiety, low self-esteem and violence against women by trivialising it and making it acceptable. It is therefore important that sport programmes and sporting activities allow women and girls to be safe and that sports clubs and associations establish efficient ways to deal with instances of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.

For most children and young people, engaging in sporting activities is a positive experience which helps to build and strengthen their self-confidence and self-esteem, their physical and mental health. There is however another side of the medal, which way too often is shrouded by silence: children and young people suffering from bullying, emotional humiliation, sexual harassment and sexual abuse at the hands of their coaches, peers and other adults – a sporting culture which accepts and tolerates negative behaviour as “part of the game”. It is important to respect children’s integrity and their safety and safeguard them from being victim of sexual harassment and sexual abuse.

The purpose of this parallel session is to raise awareness amongst all partners involved in sport of the international legally binding instruments for combating notably violence against women and children and their sexual exploitation and sexual abuse and the practical tools that they offer in making Sport without Fear a reality.


  • Marja Ruotanen, Director of Human Dignity and Equality, Council of Europe

  • George Nikolaidis, Psychiatrist, Director, Centre for the Study & Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, Greek member of the Lanzarote Committee

  • Laura Bates, Founder of Everydaysexism Project

  • Theoren Fleury, a former NHL All-Star ice hockey player, Stanley Cup Champion, gold medal Olympian, and author of bestseller “Playing With Fire”



  • Liri Kopaci-Di Michele, Head of Equality Division, Council of Europe