The case of Pinki Pramanik is one of the strangest that Indian sports has seen. The international female athlete it now seems is a male. Pramanik, a former track athlete who was embroiled in a controversy around her gender (we continue to address Pramanik in the feminine pronoun until the case is settled for good), was recently charged with rape, criminal intimidation and other offences after medical tests reported that she is ‘male’.
Pramanik hails from Tilakdihi, a village in Bengal’s Purulia district. Her story has often been held up as inspirational. The daughter of underprivileged parents, she won gold medals in both the 2006 Commonwealth Games (in Melbourne) and Asian Games (in Doha), running in the women’s 4x100 m relay. She also secured a job at Eastern Railways through its sports quota. She retired from athletics in 2008 at the age of 22.
Earlier this year, she was accused of rape by her live-in partner of three years, who also startlingly charged that Pramanik was a man. She claimed that Pramanik had raped her over a period of time and promised marriage but later reneged on the commitment. Pramanik, who was working as a ticket inspector at Kolkata’s Sealdah station, was arrested and later let out on bail.
Her arrest and the way in which tests to determine her gender were conducted caused an outcry throughout the country. Pramanik says she was manhandled by policemen, kept in the men’s cell, and forced to undergo medical tests. These tests proved inconclusive.
A medical board was constituted to determine her gender and the case was referred to Kolkata’s SSKM Hospital. Since the hospital did not have facilities for chromosome pattern tests, the samples were sent to Hyderabad, where the examination was concluded.