Lifestyle & Belief

Indian athlete in gender row speaks out


Asian Games medalist Pinki Pramanik was released from jail Tuesday after being granted bail in a rape case brought by her former live-in partner, who has also claimed that Pramanik is a man. Pramanik, who said she is innocent upon her release, has been compelled to undergo a series of gender tests, including a physical exam that was leaked to the internet.

In an interview with India's Outlook magazine, athlete Pinki Pramanik -- who was charged with rape and forced to undergo gender testing following accusations from a housemate -- has said that her accuser was never her "live-in partner," as was widely reported. For the record, she also says that she is not a man, and any masculine characteristics she may have result from regular testosterone injections that she received as part of her sports regimen.

"Russian medicine," her coaches called it. And nobody told her it was against the rules.

"The girl who brought these allegations had taken nude photographs of me and was threatening to make them public," Outlook quotes Pramanik as saying. "She had been blackmailing me for some time, asking me to write my house in her name or give her 20 lakh rupees. She had also been stealing from me, and most recently, while I was sleeping, she stole the gold chain which I wear around my neck. But to be accused of being male and raping her shocked me."

"I am not male. I have always been female. As a child, I used to look very sweet. I was a normal girl, like any other, and I wore clothes like that" — she pointed to the salwar kameez of the Outlook interviewer. "But now I only wear these clothes (pointing to her track-pants and polo shirt). I look more male now because, as part of my training to compete in international athletics, I used to be regularly administered testosterone injections like other female participants. It was called Russian medicine. I was told that it was necessary to take these and I never questioned whether these were legal or not. I was focused on winning and did whatever I was asked to do by my trainers, who knew what was best for me. But after that my voice became deeper and I grew more body hair."

As GlobalPost reported earlier, Pramanik's gender-testing ordeal, and mistreatment at the hands of Indian police, has sparked a country-wide debate on gender identity issues and privacy.