ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Sporting Chance for Gender

Against the backdrop of the violence which the Asian and Commonwealth Games medal winner, Pinki Pramanik, was subjected to and the current condition of another medal winner, Santhi Soundarajan (who failed a sex determination test), it is time to think about going beyond gender categories in sport.

On 14 June, 26-year-old Pinki Pramanik, a retired track athlete working as a ticket examiner in the Indian Railways, was arrested on charges of raping her live-in partner. The case was sensational on many counts, involving as it did an award-winning athlete, who had brought home medals from the Doha Asian Games and Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006. A live-in partner alleging rape is rare in itself. But a woman being charged of rape, and being accused of being a man was what caused the subsequent furore.

Pramanik was groped by male policemen, hauled off to judicial custody, and to add to her troubles, in keeping with government rules, she was suspended from her job after spending 48 hours in detention on a criminal charge. In the absence of a broader definition of “sexual assault” (passed by the union cabinet as part of an amendment to the rape law), for a charge of rape to be brought, according to present provisions in the Indian Penal Code, penetration by a penis must be established, as must lack of consent. (The argu­ment that the complainant was in a consensual relationship does not mean that she could not have been raped by her partner, but the complexities and legalities of intimate partner violence are b­eyond the scope of this article.)

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