In December 2021, FIFA recognised a wave of sexual abuse and committed to a “global network” to combat the covering issue.
Fans have called on FIFA to step in after Spain’s Women’s World Cup victory was clouded by the president of the Spanish football federation (RFEF) , who kissed a footballer during the final medal presentation.
RFEF President Luis Rubiales greeted footballer Jenni Hermoso on the podium by grabbing her head in his hands and kissing her on the lips while live on air.
In a video shared on her social media platform, the footballer initially said she “didn’t like it” before she later altered her comments to say it was a “natural gesture of affection” as world media picked up the story.
“It was the emotion of the moment,” Spain’s all-time leading goal scorer told Cadena COPE after the game.
“There’s nothing else there. It’s no big deal. It was a mutual, totally spontaneous gesture because of the huge joy of winning a World Cup,” Hermoso added.
“The ‘presi’ (President) and I have a great relationship. His behaviour with us has been a ’10’ [out of 10.] It was a natural gesture, of affection and gratitude. We’ve won a World Cup, and we won’t get away from what’s important.”
When asked about the incident by Radio Marca, the Spanish RFEF president described individuals criticising his actions as “idiots.”
“There are idiots everywhere. When two people have a gesture of affection, that isn’t important, we can’t pay attention to idiocy. We’re champions, and I’ll focus on that, Rubiales said.
Despite the responses by Hermoso and Rubiales, the incident has been likened to “sexual violence” by commentators and rights activists around the world.
Spain’s Equality Minister Irene Montero condemned Rubiales’ actions.
“Let’s not assume that giving a kiss without consent is something ‘that happens,” She posted on X.
“It is a form of sexual violence that women suffer on a daily basis and until now invisible, and that we cannot normalise. It is the task of the whole society. Consent in the centre. Only yes is yes,” Montero added.
Social media users have demanded that FIFA be involved and address Rubiales’s behavior at the Women’s World Cup final.
“FIFA absolutely has a responsibility of stepping in and addressing Luis Rubiales’s behaviour shown at the game earlier today. The RFEF president has a pending trial over an alleged assault of a woman in 2017. FIFA, this happened at your event. Step in, protect the players,” one user wrote on X.
FIFA’s players rights policy states that the federation is committed to “upholding the inherent dignity and equal rights” of everyone affected by its activities.
Since 2018, two male presidents of national football federations have been banned from the sport for sexually assaulting women and girls on the national teams.
In the wake of the scandals, FIFA and a United Nations agency launched an investigation to look into the issue. However, questions have been raised on whether FIFA as an entity should deal with sexual abuse or independent bodies instead.
Just this month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report revealing a “complexity of justice” in cases of sexual abuse brought to FIFA.
“Human Rights Watch interviewed female players whose passports were confiscated. Passport confiscation, which was confirmed by FIFA, can be a marker of human trafficking, and women athletes and referees told us it was used as a form of control and coercion, and to block escape,” HRW highlights in the case of the president of the Haitian national football federation.
Former Haitian President Jean-Bart was banned from football for life by FIFA’s ethics committee in 2020 after he was found harassing and sexually abusing women footballers.
Regardless of the ban by FIFA, Jean-Bart had his ban overturned in February by the Court of Arbitration For Sport, and the HRW blames FIFA for it’s lack of action and failure to “protect witnesses or financially compensate any victims of sexual abuse in its systems.”
FIFA has yet to comment on the actions of Spanish football federation (RFEF) President Luis Rubiales.