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Gender-Bender

Who’s Pinki Pramanik? And is there more to her than meets the eye?

So who’s this Pinki whose MMS the media are all abuzz about? Some new starlet? This is why I say, don’t open your mouth and display your ignorance. It’s actually not a laughing matter. It’s an MMS of a leaked video of a naked Pinki Pramanik undergoing a gender test.

Pinki who? And that you don’t know this is even less of a laughing matter. Pinki Pramanik is an athlete from West Bengal. She was considered PT Usha’s successor at one point. Made her international debut at the 2003 World Youth Championships in Athletics where she reached the 800 metres semi-finals. Then she won the gold in 4×400 metres relay at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha. She also won a silver medal at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games the same year in the 400 metres relay race.

So she’s taking part in the Olympics? No, no. She actually retired four years ago. Had a hamstring injury. Which didn’t allow her to qualify for the Beijing Olympics in 2008. But now she’s gone from the shining star of the country to the secret no one seems to want to speak of.

For what? For getting a ham-string injury four years back? You’re kidding me. She’s an athlete, that’s bound to happen. Nah, not because of the injury. It turns out that Pinki has been felled by the age-old mistake wise men have been victim to. She scorned a woman and as we all know, hell hath no fury like a…

I don’t follow you. She has a girlfriend who’s pissed off at her? So what?  Well, on June 14th, her female live-in partner who she’s been living with for three years filed a police complaint accusing Pinki of being a male who repeatedly “raped and tortured” her. Then the cops arrested Pinki from her Baguiati flat and remanded her to 14 days’ judicial custody. The Eastern Railway, with whom she’s a ticket collector, suspended her on June 16th following the judicial custody. The rumour is that she refused to marry her partner. The partner got pissed off and made a police complaint. And that’s when the can of worms opened up.

So Pinki’s a guy? And no one noticed? Obviously her live-in partner’s not the brightest cookie in the box.  Well, Pinki was born in Tilakdi, which is a village near Ayodhya Hills. Her mother, Pushparani, gave birth to her at home with the help of a midwife – so there’s no medical certificate to hold up as proof of her gender. But the villagers and her family have gone on record to say that they knew Pinki was a girl.

So it’s basically the word of her miffed partner? Well, yeah. There’ve been claims that there was a complaint lodged against Pinki when she “over-performed” during the heats of a tournament. And one of her coaches said that a sex determination test was scheduled but Pinki pulled out of the competition. But the coach refuses to be named. So I wouldn’t put much faith in these reports. The West Bengal Athletic Association’s secretary, Kamal Maitra has also gone on record to say that she’s undergone many sex determination tests – which you have to before international competitions and even while being recruited by the Railways. And there’ve never been any questions raised about her gender.

So back-track a little. How come she made it into athletics from some small hamlet in Bengal? Her dad, Durga Charan, had once given an interview saying that the first time Pinki competed in Jharkhand in 2000 she won medals and got a cow and a goat as gifts from the organisers. Then some rich villagers from Tilakdi offered to sponsor her. For the longest time in fact, she used to run barefoot.

Aah, Leander Paes wouldn’t be too impressed by that. Yes, we all know how kindly he spoke of Vishnu Vardhan not having grass court shoes.

So all these claims are poppycock and hogwash? Well that’s not clear. Her detractors have claimed that it’s not all a case of “mistaken identity” as it’s being made out to be. There have been various statements made to the media that after winning the gold in the 4x400m relay at the Doha Asian Games in 2006, she was suddenly pulled out from the subsequent 100m race by the Athletic Federation of India after Santhi Soundarajan, another female Indian athlete, failed the gender test in Doha.

Hmm. So she’s not the first one to get enmeshed in this kind of a controversy? Far from it. There’s Santhi Soundarajan, who was a middle-distance runner who won the 800m silver at the 2006 Doha Asian Games. She was stripped of the medal after failing the gender-verification test. According to reports, Santhi might have been born with an inter-sexed condition known as Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS). I’ll give it to the government though, that in January 2006 the Tamil Nadu chief minister, Karunanidhi, awarded her a television set and a cash prize of Rs 15 lakh for her Doha Games win. In September 2007, she was reported to have attempted suicide as a result of these questions about her gender, but survived.

So, that’s just the one person? No there was one more. Not Indian though. Caster Semenya. A 21-year-old South African middle-distance runner who won the 800m gold in 2009 World Championships and was immediately made to undergo a “gender test”. The IAAF said that this was to determine whether she had a “rare medical condition” giving her an unfair competitive advantage. Turned out that Semenya was brought up as a girl and had external female genitalia, but no ovaries or uterus. She was born with un-descended testes, which gave her three times the amount of testosterone of an average female and, therefore, an edge over competitors. She went through this same humiliation of public scrutiny and media questioning as Pinki and was barred from competitions. Only to be cleared of the charges and classified as a female by the IAAF.

So what’s the story now? Is Pinki a boy or a girl? Well, she’s undergone three gender determination tests at a private clinic – Uma Nursing Home and two government hospitals, Barasat Sub-Divisional Hospital and SSKM Hospital. All the tests were inconclusive. Although, Subrata Mukherjee of Uma Nursing Home where the test was conducted told the media – which is so professional of him – that, “the reports conducted by us show that Pramanik is a male”.

Woah! How can the doctor conducting the tests be speaking to the media? That’s the whole thing. The entire arrest and testing has been done with no sense of privacy for Pinki. She’s always accompanied by male cops – almost as if it’s already been decided that she’s a man. She’s even been kept in the men’s jail.

And what about the MMS? Well, it shows Pinki lying naked on a bed. The first claim was that it was shot at Uma Nursing Home when she was undergoing her gender test. Now her lawyer’s claiming that it’s actually been shot by Pinki’s partner and circulated by her.

Lovely, this just gets better and better. You can say that again. Obviously anything goes when it comes to the cops and government doctors nowadays. Which shouldn’t surprise us, actually. So the MMS has been pulled off after it was able to be viewed online last night. No one is certain it got there and not too many people care it seems. And there’s no word from her partner through all this. Pinki’s family has also not yet reached Calcutta from her village, so no one can even lodge a complaint against the MMS on her behalf with the cops. Not a pretty place to be in. No job, no partner, your integrity in tatters. And for all we know, all this could simply be because of a scorned lover.

Mamata Banerjee hasn’t made any statements? That’s odd. Well, you know how allergic she is to the “rape” word. And rumours are that the government is keeping quiet and out of this investigation, just in case she does turn out to be a male, because then they’ll have to return the medals. And with the Olympics round the corner, the less controversy for our athletes the better.

A conspiracy. The C-word. Well, that’s the theory and it is West Bengal. And Pinki’s claiming it’s a conspiracy against her. So many conspiracies. And no clarity.

Do watch: Tootsie and Running Man (back-to-back) if possible.

Don’t sing: “I’m a dude, she’s a dude, he’s a dude, we’re all dudes…”

Do ask: The female of the species is deadlier than the male?

 

Sources:

http://sports.ndtv.com/othersports/athletics/item/191885-who-is-pinki-pramanik

http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/Kolkata/MMS-showing-Pinki-Pramanik-undergoing-gender-test-goes-viral-online/Article1-882320.aspx

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/off-the-field/Fourteen-day-jail-remand-for-Pinki-Pramanik/articleshow/14151655.cms?

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/off-the-field/Gender-controversy-Run-Pinki-Pramanik-run/articleshow/14283284.cms

Image Source: [http://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/5799527705/]

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