Gabon investigates alleged rape of women footballers

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LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AFP) — The Gabonese authorities yesterday announced the opening of an inquiry into ill-treatment and sexual assaults against members of the Under-20 national women’s team by their managers.

Accounts and images on social networks have drawn attention to the experience of the young Panthers at the Sud Ladies Cup in Marseille last week.

The players experienced hell on the pitch, losing all five of their games, conceding 44 goals and scoring none. Off it they also had a tough time. The players had to share mattresses in their hotel room, their phones and passports were confiscated and they were sexually assaulted.

Sports Minister Alain-Claude Bilie-By-Nze said he had asked the Gabonese Football Federation (FEGAFOOT) to investigate.

“Young women selected to the national women’s Under-20 football team report abuse, sexual harassment, touching and rape, allegedly committed by members of the team’s technical and administrative staff,” Bilie-By-Nze said.

“The seriousness of the alleged facts has just led me to refer the matter to FEGAFOOT for an internal investigation,” he added.

“I have also just referred the matter to the Public Prosecutor for the opening of an investigation which could lead, if the facts are established, to legal proceedings against the alleged offenders.”

“Deviant behaviour such as sexual harassment, psychological violence and pressure of all kinds cannot flourish in sport,“ Mr Bilie-By-Nze said.

FEGAFOOT released a statement saying it had started an inquiry, and condemned the harmful behaviour but also casting doubt on some of the media reports.

The statement said that despite FEGAFOOT’s difficult financial position, it had offered the players “a lump sum bonus”.

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