The degradation of Pinki Pramanik

Police escort Former Indian athlete Pinki Pramanik (C) to the Barasat District court in Barasat around 35 Km north of Kolkata on June 15 2012. Pinki Pramanik won four gold medals in 2006

This picture tells the story of Pinki Pramanik, a female athlete arrested on charges of rape and facing claims she is actually male.

You can see a policeman groping the feted athlete in the full glare of cameras as she is led away after her arrest last month. Ms Pramanik looks harried and helpless. There are no woman constables in sight, as should have been the case.

Ms Pramanik, by the way, is one of India's most accomplished athletes. The 26-year-old has picked up a host of gold and silver medals in relay events at international competitions.

She was arrested last month after her live-in partner, who is a woman, charged her with rape. Ms Pramanik denies all charges. Investigations, it is hoped, will reveal the truth.

Meanwhile, Ms Pramanik is living through hell.

She has been lodged in the male ward of a prison in Calcutta, subjected to a battery of inconclusive gender determination tests and herded between prison and court by male policemen. When she went for a medical test, somebody recorded it on a mobile phone and posted the video on the net, where, apparently it has gone viral. As if this was not enough, Ms Pramanik has also lost her job with Indian Railways.

Sections of the local media have reported on her relationship with her partner in lascivious detail. Her fellow athletes have talked about a history of "rough behaviour" and how she "lived on the edge", without elaborating. They talk about her being a "late-nighter who enjoyed the good things in life". Her estranged partner talks about how Ms Pramanik "cheated the whole world" by posing as a female athlete.

The imprisoned Ms Pramanik, obviously, cannot respond.

Human rights group are understandably outraged. They say Ms Pramanik has been stripped of her dignity by the state, which should be protecting her rights in the first place. Her custody has been extended as she is being taken through inconclusive gender determination tests in poorly-equipped laboratories. "Why should she be subjected to such harassment and degrading treatment?" asks rights activist Sujato Bhadra.

The travails of Pinki Pramanik prove how the state - and sections of the media - can destroy the lives of the weak and the different in India.

Ms Pramanik, who quit sport two years ago after a road accident, comes from a poor village in West Bengal, which is ringed by Maoist rebel strongholds. She has no rich and powerful friends. And now her sexuality is under a cloud. All this makes her a helpless outlier and an easy target.

Soutik Biswas, Delhi correspondent Article written by Soutik Biswas Soutik Biswas Delhi correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    True, there are various ways to be male or female. But to decide whether to store Pinki in the male or female jail should take seconds. Let two officers, male and female, pull her pants down and look. Put Pinki in with other prisoners who have the same type of genitals. Then let the courts argue for months.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Everything nice/awful you read about our Country, must be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism. Especially if the news comes from an Indian media outlet.
    All issues are ridiculously dragged out, for their maximum earning potential. Blatantly and shamelessly.
    There are many ways, this could have been resolved with the least racket/pain. But does not provide for any Media Outlet's daily bread.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    @19 Kiran

    [Unsuitable URL removed by Moderator]

    Here is an example of how violence against women and men is perceived in India. Let me know if you need me to explain the context - to me it is very clear.

    @20 indian mathematician

    "No one really knows how these surveys work"

    Says it all, really.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Surely if she is a man there should be no problem finding out?

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    19. Kiran
    "India is the worst place for a woman to be."

    Dear Kiran, you never understand, do you?

    How are MALE rape suspects treated in India, then? Better or worse than this? And do Human Rights Watch get involved? Plus, you still haven't answered "So why is there no outcry here about UK justice?". Because you can't, IMO.


Comments 5 of 39



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