Pinki Pramanik Or Society? The Naked Truth
It is generally seen in India that sports and sportspersons often remain in limelight for all bad reasons. Time and again sportspersons complain of humiliations by government or system. But very recently a national sportsperson of international repute had to go through such humiliation, which a sportsperson in the world has never gone through. 26-year-old Pinki Pramanik has won medals and honour for India and she was a matter of pride and glory for the entire country in three international sports events in South Asian Games in 2006, which she ended with three gold medals. Again, she won gold medal in the 4×400 relay at the Asian Games in Doha in 2006. She also earned a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne for the country.
The same Pinki Pramanik was picked up by the West Bengal police on the night of June 14, 2012, on the charge that she raped her fellow lady companion Anamika, who reported the police of being raped and tortured by Pinki and therefore it became news and sensation for everyone. That a woman can rape another woman, became the talk of the town. But now everyone has forgotten this as it is a matter of investigation involving a national pride.
In between Pinki had to go through various trials, medical tests, harassments—mental as well emotional. Finally, after a tortuous ordeal of 25 days in custody the medal-winning athlete Pinki Pramanik was granted bail on July 10, 2012.
The whole incident left a high spirited sportsperson shattered. The police are yet to prove the charges. Pinki has been tried for a month by the court of law, police and media but the final outcome remains unresolved.
The sad part of this month-long ordeal is that everyone remains mum all through her dark days. Apart from some human rights organisations and some sportspersons no one seems to be by her side even rational media has distanced itself away from Pinki, even when a picture showing Pinki being carried and groped by two police men, came up. This photograph revealed that she was manhandled. She was treated as a male prisoner and was kept in isolated cell in a male ward of the Jail. From the complain in police register to the judicial file everywhere she was described as “son” of Durga Charan Pramanik, which itself was torturous. Moreover, she was handled by male police badly, which sparked protest.
The classification and definition through scientific examination such as XY chromosomes and XX chromosomes brought out a new platform of argument, as to who can be defined as male and who can be defined as female. Although this classification has no meaning as a national pride was kept in police lockup, when her crime is yet to be proved.
There is a long history of the battles fought by women athletes, including in India. In Pinki’s case, no one raised these questions during her medal-winning period. She has been in virtual retirement for the last five years. And suddenly, her sex has come into question and is being “discovered” in full view of the media by an insensitive police force.
Media too played a very irresponsible role when it came out with sensational facts, even an MMS showing undergoing sex determination test was made public.
The media woke up to these aspects only after human rights and some senior women athletes began to ask questions. In fact, even the discussion on the way the police treated Pinki only came up on television channels once these groups had drawn attention to it. Otherwise, the footage showing two policemen carrying her might have gone unnoticed.
In spite of all odds in life Pinki Pramanik who came from the interiors of Purulia district of West Bengal, won the gold medal in the 4×400 relay at the Asian Games in Doha in 2006. At that time she was classified as a female athlete and until her arrest, no one had disputed this. In fact, at the same Asian Games where Pramanik won a gold, Santhi Soundarajan from Tamil Nadu, who won the silver in the 800 m race, was disqualified and had to surrender her medal because she failed the gender verification test.
A similar case is that of South African Caster Semenya who won the gold in the 800 m race at the Berlin World Championships in 2008. She had to undergo a gender verification test and even though the 21-year-old grew up as a girl, she was informed that the test confirmed that she was a man. Semenya went through tremendous humiliation, yet did not give up and has now been classified as female by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
Yet the way Pinki Pramanik has been treated exposes the callousness of Indian society and shows how far it has to travel before it understands and accepts these realities.
The Pinki Pramanik issue will not disappear but it will rise again and again. After coming out of the jail Pinki said that for 25 days she had been giving herself confidence that “even Sita had to face such test in the society; what have I faced”?
By Joydeep Dasgupta from Kolkata