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

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No Way to Treat a Human

The treatment meted out to athlete Pinki Pramanik turns what deserves understanding into a horror show.

She has won medals for India in a field in which few men or women from this country excel. Yet, you would not think so if you read or watched media coverage of the arrest of the 26-year-old athlete Pinki Pramanik from Purulia, West Bengal on charges of rape by her live-in companion. Since 14 June, when Pramanik was arrested, she has become the object of prurient curiosity, not because she is a woman being charged with rape by another woman, but because she is being accused of pretending to be a woman when allegedly she is a man. The crime for which she has been arrested has been relegated to the back-burner. A crime that she did not commit, that is the confusion over her gender, is what she is being tried for by the media and the public of the country.

Pramanik’s case is particularly horrific. It should have elicited a much stronger response from people who respect human rights. Although delayed, West Bengal human rights groups and several athletes have finally spoken up on her behalf and have urged the West Bengal government to take urgent note of the “inhuman torture” that Pramanik has reportedly undergone in jail and in police custody. On any count, the way she has been treated violates all forms of decency. Even though Pramanik is classified as a female athlete and therefore, until proven otherwise, must be treated as a woman, she was arrested by policemen and manhandled. This is unlawful. At the time of her arrest, Pramanik should have been handled by policewomen and sent to a women’s lock-up. Instead, she has been detained in a male prison and denied bail. Compounding these violations, she was sent, without her permission, for a gender verification test to a private clinic that was not equipped to conduct any such test. The unverified results of the test declaring her to be a man were publicised by the police and widely reported by the media. The police had no business doing this. Each time she is taken to court in the police van, she is gawked at by a waiting public as if she were some freak of nature. And to cap it all, a video reportedly taken during the medical examination at the private clinic has been circulated on the internet. No human being deserves to be treated the way Pramanik has been by the police and the media. What does it then say about Indian society that we can turn what deserves sympathy and understanding into a horror show? How callous have we become that we are prepared to mock and virtually torture those who for no fault of theirs are born of an inconclusive gender?

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