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Scott Kuggeleijn
image source: Newsroom.co.nz

After being cleared of rape charges, New Zealand cricketer Scott Kuggeleijn’s induction to International cricket opens several flaws about the country’s sorry state of women.

Cricket’s biggest tournament is just around the corner.

The world’s richest T20 league is at the doorstep. And that’s not Pakistan Super League. There is no better time to follow the sport. This is as good as Christmas. It is that time of the year that as a fan of cricket, you can easily gateway with saying “nothing matters more!” Not really. Certain things do matter more than cricket even more so if the sport is talked up as the ‘gentlemen’s game’.

“New Zealand is failing women and it is fair to say that our justice system is broken.” Andrew Little, New Zealand’s justice minister told the world about the sorry state of women in his country. He made these comments at the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva earlier this year.

The UPR accounts United Nations member states to a review of their human rights records. Little highlighted the statistics reflecting that one-third of women in New Zealand would experience emotional or sexual violence.

Scott Kuggeleijn, son of former New Zealand off-spinner Chris Kuggeleijn, has made six appearances for the Black Caps and yet, he is the most talked about cricketer in the nation.

He is the center of long prime time broadcast discussion and none of it concerns his abilities with bat or the lack of it with the ball.

In May 2015, Scott was accused of raping a 21-year-old woman in Hamilton. He was remanded on bail in July 2015 after pleading not guilty. On February 24, the jury in the rape trial cleared him of the charges.

On the surface of it, this might seem like a cricketer in the middle of one bad episode. However, that episode wasn’t of a talk-show set up rather his trials revealed some chilling details. According to the witness testimony who told the court that she repeatedly said no and was crying and looking at the ceiling while Scott held down her arms. Scott did not deny having sex with the woman who accused him of rape. He even sent a text the next day apologizing for “the harm I have caused you”.

Scott’s defense lawyers argued that the accuser’s clothes, appearance, drinking, and behavior were somehow provocative. They went so far to say, “Were you saying ‘no’ but not meaning ‘no’?” and suggested that her mention of being on the pill somehow meant she was consenting to sex.

Scott Kuggeleijn
image source: Radio NZ

Scott’s defense was typical of how most of these cases are buried. In less than two months of being cleared of these charges, the northern district allrounder made his ODI debut against Ireland and a week later, he went to play his maiden T20I game against the same opposition.

From a legal standpoint, Scott was free to pursue his career as an International cricketer and nobody should or did stop him. However, the deafening silence with which NZ Cricket has dealt with the issue far more unfortunate than the event itself. History is replete with examples of high-profile entities trying to ‘brush it under the carpet’. Hollywood has done it and so has the Catholic church.

One of New Zealand’s leading broadcast journalist, Kanoa Llyod on her show raised the issue and demanded answers from the cricket board who came back with a fine piece of statement that cleared the air but more like with a ‘room freshener’ than suggesting actions that cleared the mess.

The NZ Cricket statement essentially suggested that their annual intake of professional players now involve an independent expert who conducts a comprehensive workshop on sexual harassment and consent through an NZCPA induction process. Fair enough. But what about Scott? Was there an independent inquiry about him that proved that he had any remorse whatsoever or did he go through a programme that guarantees that he is a changed man?

Recently, NZ Cricket and Westpac Stadium removed a banner that read ‘no means no’ during a T20 International against India. The woman with the banner said that the security at the ground tried to confiscate the banner later received an apology from the stadium.

Scott Kuggeleijn, who by the way ‘adores New Zealand Cricket‘ and NZ Cricket, in turn, have a responsibility.

The same that we all have.

They must try and act in order to bring about change. Irony died several times when Scott’s issue came under the scanner again when he featured against India, a country who is also struggling to protect its women. It is 2019 and mere silence won’t heal nor help.

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