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Pinki Pramanik: Indian Athlete’s Gender Identity Crisis

by Nancy Needhima on July 5, 2012 at 5:44 PM
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Pinki Pramanik: Indian Athlete’s Gender Identity Crisis

The current storm over Pinki Pramanik has kicked up more dirt than the laurels earned by the track athlete. Also, the athlete's disputed sexual identity is the latest among the media's focus on Pramanik. Though the athlete has been arrested for allegedly being a male and for raping 'her' live-in partner, the cause of agitation among the masses is because of the government's failure to protect the person under custody. Male police put in charge of an athlete whose sex is not yet officially determined, nude videos of the athlete's sex determination test going viral and the athlete, who has competed in women's category, placed in men's cell has been condemned by activists on the grounds of human rights violation.

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Success of the 26 year old Pinki Pramanik, began at the age of 17, sprinting off by winning bronze medals at the Asian Indoor Athletics Championships, followed by a series of accolades at the 2005 Asian Indoor Games, 2006 Common Wealth Games, 2006 Asian Games, and taking it all the way through, to winning three gold medals at the 2006 South Asian Games. However Pramanik's contribution in the sports track dwindled after 2007 following sports injury, traumatic assault and an accident leaving the athlete in need of prolonged hospitalisation.

On 14th June 2012, Pramanik was arrested and remanded under judicial custody of 14 days following the accusation of the athlete's live-in partner. Police escorted the accused to a private nursing home located in North 24 Pargana's district where medical reports of sex determination confirmed Pramanik was male. However, the MMS that recorded the gender determination tests in the medical facility exposing the athlete completely naked went viral causing humiliation and embarrassment to the former sprinter. Pramanik will be subjected to further medical tests at government hospital to confirm the athlete's gender and court's consent is sought to send blood samples for karyotyping or testing of sex chromosomes.
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The case of Pinki Pramanik is old wine in new bottle. The gold medal winner of 2009 World Championships, Caster Semenya, South African who competed in the 800 meters was a victim of gender identity crisis. Similar to Semenya, Pramanik could also be a case of Testicular Feminization Syndrome (TFS) or Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (CAIS). In simpler logic, chromosomes are 23 pairs, among which one pair determines the sex of a person depending on the combination. Sex chromosome for female is XX and for male is XY in humans. In the case of Pramanik, the athlete has chances of having chromosomes of a male but the genitals of a woman. The male hormones soar much higher than that of female hormones; hence the results of the test might show testosterone and androgen content in the blood. Chromosomal imbalance could probably make Pramanik feel like a man while the athlete looks like a woman.

If medical results confirm Pinki Pramanik is indeed male, as accused by Pramanik's live-in partner, the athlete will have to risk losing the medals and face serious consequences of rape charges. On the flipside the hype of Pinki Pramanik is a repeat in the history of Indian sports. As much as the public plight of Pramanik is causing much distress, it also reflects more on the repulsive reaction towards gender identity crisis and the Indian government's lax attempts in handling sensitive issues even in the case of people who have brought accolades to the country.

Source: Medindia

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