Sexual abuse is prevalent in Kenyan basketball - reveals former player

A lot of teenage girls are suffering in silence.

Kenyan basketballer: Sexual abuse rife for years

According to a former basketball player, female players have had to deal with sexual abuse for "many many years".

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the former player told BBC Sport Africa that the abuse was often linked to promises to young players that it will make it easier to advance their careers.

Now in her 30s, she says she was sexually abused by one of her coaches as she started out in the game.

"Everywhere in Kenya, basketball players know these things but people have been quiet. Many girls have been used but they don't want to say anything.

There were so many girls I see, even in big teams here, but they are all quiet. I think people have been afraid. In Kenya, people have been used," she revealed.

The revelation comes after Human Rights Watch (HRW) opened investigations into allegations of sexual abuse in Kenyan basketball.

The international campaign group played a key role in helping some of those who suffered from Mali's long-standing abuse, which was laid out in a report commissioned by basketball's governing body FIBA, find their voice.

Hamane Niang stepped aside temporarily in June as the president of FIBA, basketball’s world governing body on allegations of systemic sexual harassment and abuse of dozens of female players in Mali, the majority of them teenagers, since at least the early 2000s.

Niang, has not been accused of committing sexual abuse.

However, his critics revealed that he mostly disregarded the assault of women for a dozen years between 1999 and 2011, when he served first as president of Mali’s basketball federation and then as the country’s sports minister.

Two players who were teenagers at the time, revealed Niang was present at a nightclub in Mali’s capital for a victory celebration in 2006 or 2007 when his close friend, coach Cheick Oumar Sissoko, known as Yankee, groped their breasts and buttocks as they danced with them. The players said that instead of intervening, Niang watched and laughed along.

Another former player, Aissata Tina Djibo, now 31, said Sissoko repeatedly made lewd sexual remarks that Niang ignored at practices.

Sissoko also sometimes had sex with players who relented because they were afraid to lose their place in the youth national team, she said.

Asked if Niang was aware of Sissoko’s behavior, Djibo said, “Of course, he knew. Yankee was his best friend, they were hanging out together. That’s why Yankee was so powerful. He had the backing of the president.”

HRW opens investigation in Kenya

"Human Rights Watch is looking into and is concerned about reports of sexual abuse of young female athletes in Kenya's Basketball Federation (KBF)," Minky Worden, HRW's Director of Global Initiatives, told BBC Sport Africa.

"Officials in national basketball have a duty to protect young players and to ensure their safety. FIBA, the global basketball federation, has a 'zero tolerance' policy against sexual abuse in sport.

"It is the responsibility of FIBA and all national sports federations to ensure a safe environment for teen players, to kick abusers out of sport, and to ensure justice for harassment and gender-based violence."

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