No need for religious enforcement: Soumya Swaminathan

Pune: In the wake of her stepping down from representing India at the Asian Team Chess Championship in Iran, chess player Soumya Swaminathan on Wednesday said that there is no need for religious or cultural enforcements in sports.

“There is no need for any religious or cultural enforcement in sports, we as sportspersons travel to another country representing our nation and to play our game. There are often dress codes, like in official chess tournaments, we are required to wear formals, which is valid, but there is no need to impose a dress code based on a religion or a culture upon anyone in sports,” Swaminathan told ANI.

Swaminathan was of the opinion that a player’s rights and welfare should be given importance and that sport will benefit greatly if it is properly looked after.

“I am very sorry for having to miss out and I hope I or anyone gets stuck in a situation like this, where we have to choose between our country and our values, our basic human rights. I hope the sporting fraternity and the chess fraternity as a whole will work towards it,” she added.

Earlier today, Swaminathan refused to be a part of the Asian Team Chess Championship, to be held in Hamadan, Iran, from July 26 to August 4, because of the compulsory-headscarf rule in the country, which she said violated her personal rights.

This is not the first time an athlete pulled out of an event over the same issue. In 2016, top Indian shooter Heena Sidhu had withdrawn from the Asian Airgun meet in Iran citing the same reason.