She Male!

International meets duped! Champion female Indian athlete actually a man! Bribery, lesbian sex, rape! Yum yum gossip alert, people!

***

Very quickly then: A former lover has accused Asiad and Commonwealth-decorated female track star Pinki Pramanik of sexual assault. According to Bartaman, local police said they didn’t respond to the charges at first because Pramanik is ‘a well-known figure’. Then, however, the lover provided pictures and statements ‘proving’ Pramanik is secwetly a man. Jolted into action, the police asked Pramanik to undergo tests to prove her female sex. She refused, saying she hadn’t been charged with anything that could mandate such a test. Charges of rape, impersonation, physical assault and intimidation were brought against, and Pramanik was remanded in a 14-day judicial custody. The Deputy Commissioner of Police has apparently told The Daily Telegraph that his department is trying to secure legal permission to perform sex-determinating tests on her. Her lawyer, on the other hand, has told The Telegraph, India that post-arrest, she’s willing to volunteer for the tests.

That’s the fact sheet, as matters now stand.

Of course, I fully expect my friends and peers to eviscerate the newspapers for their sly, salacious coverage — for emphasising the gender-confusion angle instead of the rape charges*. And more power to them. Given our social milieu, saying people don’t fit into the comfortable, familiar, heterosexual male-female binary is automatically condemning them to monsterhood. All ‘normal’ emotional traffic their-wards is immediately shut down, and every further social interaction — with them or about them — is filtered through fear, fascination and revulsion of this particular kind of Other.

So really, no one is surprised when such people are implicated in breaches of the law. It’s a perfectly normal monstrous behaviour, after all. Destruction of society and civilisation as we know it — that’s the founding principle of their existence. Some ascribe it to their ‘natural’ — or, more accurately, ‘unnatural’ — slyness, malice, or tweaked moral compass. Others presume sympathy and understanding, pointing out that imposed monstrosity is frequently a self-fulfilling prophecy. Persistent shaming, persecution and ostracisation by the social mainstream shoves minority/marginal groups into a textbook Catch-22. They can either earn the right to live at the fringes of society by stepping into their stereotypes — following the local monster-script and reassuring regular folks that they were right about their freakishness all along. Or, they can delude themselves that democracy is their armour, and attempt to lead an equal life amongst painfully unequal peers. Generally, this causes alarm, self-doubt, insecurity, and consequently, fury at freaks trying to pass themselves as normal folk, which leads right back to imposed monstrosity and ostracisation.

It’s a full and vicious cycle. And anyone trying to make even a dent in it usually has my best wishes. However, in this particular case, I’m a little disturbed to see people insisting that since Pinki’s sex and gender are allegedly unaligned — that is, she acts like a woman but has the inner plumbing of a man — no crimes could possibly be perpetrated by her. One might argue that this is an equal and opposite reaction to those who have taken Pinky’s alleged gender-identity fraud as proof of her guilt in everything else. The “All freaks are devilspawn!” brigade can only be answered, some might insist, with “All non-normative people are sunshine and kisses!!!”.

They might well have a point. Especially in terms of political posturing. But rationally and strategically, I find this tactic of binary-oppositing a bit silly. For one, it allows one’s detractors to choose the field and set the stage. Once those vitals are conceded, all one can really do is jump up and down and say, “No, no! Lies! It’s not like that at all!” to every outrageous accusation that is thrown one’s way. Not the best way, I think, to create an informed platform for diversity and equal rights.  Besides, this loud serve-and-volley of accusations and denials completely obliterates the single most important fall-out of cases such as this: a re-evaluation of our laws, and the socio-legal environment our judiciary and law enforcement lives in.

In this case, for instance, one might like to know why Pinki’s masculinity is so central to the rape charges against her. Is it because ‘rape’ is too narrowly defined by our laws? Is it because sexual assault by one woman on another — or for that matter by one man on another — cannot be adequately addressed by the scope of our antiquated penal code? Pinki and her lover were living together as two women — isn’t it interesting that in a society as fractured along modernity fault-lines as ours, their’s was a publicly-accepted relationship? Was it legally recognisable as well? Pinki must, of course, face an enquiry in her athletic career, but why did her arrest on domestic violence charges not happen till she fell from grace? Speaking of, are intimate pictures covertly taken admissable in court? And most importantly, what legal recognition does our land grant its many transgendered/intersex citizens (of which Pinky may or may not be one)? Are there anti-discriminatory safeguards against them? Are there well-regulated social sensitisation programmes for police and admin. officers?

Why do we know so little about our laws, our rights, the penal codes that might come to our aid in our mean streets and meaner homes? What does this ‘culture’ of ignorance — wilful or imposed — say about the nature of Indian democracy? Now these questions, I think, are the ones we should be asking.

But lesbian rape is so much more fun.

***

*To wit, “Indian female relay champion ‘a man’ “, the Daily Telegraph — judicious use of quotation marks notwithstanding; ‘”Is Pink Pramanik a man?” NDTV Sports; ” ‘Pinki Pramanik bribed medical board’ “, the Times of India. On the other hand, IBNLive obliterates all references to sex-gender gossip in its headline, “Rape case: Asiad gold medallist Pinki Pramanik sent to jail“. As does Reuters India, “Ex-Indian runner Pinki Pramanik accused of rape“. In customary style, The Telegraphic clubs all headline-grabbers into one sentence: “She’s -a-he and rape slur on sprinter“.

19 Responses to She Male!

  1. Ruru Chowdhury says:

    I still don’t get the rape angle. Was this woman under the impression that she Pinki was a woman and now that she is allegedly a man, it’s breach of trust and thus rape? Or was it that she raped her anyway and as you pointed out, the law ‘needs’ her to be a man to do something about it? I’m thoroughly confused. And if she indeed is a male, how is it that she duped the various (national and international) athletic federations?

  2. dipanjan says:

    Gender test is no longer mandatory. IAAF can request such tests randomly or on the basis of complaints/suspicions/allegations from other competitors.

  3. Ruru Chowdhury says:

    yes true. I meant, if indeed she were, there would be some questions. Caster Semenaya, Santhi Sondyaraman, I mean the officials are experienced, they would have noticed something.

  4. dipanjan says:

    Her career ended rather abruptly. There were probably some rumors/speculations which led to her early retirement.

    • Ruru Chowdhury says:

      Again, that does cast a doubt. I just read a few online newspapers and this seems more like a breach of trust thing. The fact is that if she were raped then law should take its course but as Rimi wrote, for rape to happen, Pinki Pramanik does not have to be male. Either way, it’s a sad turn of events.

      • dipanjan says:

        Section 375 begins with the assumption that a rapist is always a man. Women can assist in gang rapes, but Indian penal code possibly does not allow trying a single woman on individual rape charges. Section 375 — “A man is said to commit “rape” who, except in the case hereinafter excepted”

  5. Rape is a heinous crime to be condemned in the strongest possible terms and deserving of the severest punishment irrespective of the gender of the perpetrator. Period.

    • Priyanka says:

      Absolutely. And even our definition of male-perpetrated rape should be broadened beyond the scope of vaginal penetration. It’s a ridiculous borderline for defining sexual assault.

      Besides, and although when compared to abused women, the number of domestically abused men are disappearingly small, the law should be extended to all existing cases of abuse, irrespective of gender, orientation, or livelihood of the people involved. I don’t think these groups are catered to in any way, shape or form (unless it is by assaulting their assaulter, keeping the cycle of violence going). It might destroy traditional masculinity to admit to violations — emotional, physical or sexual — but that hardly gives society and state the licence to ignore the help they so desperately need.

      • Obi Wan says:

        Thank you. In the States, “rape” includes digital rape, and it comes up in same sex domestic assault cases. I don’t know about India, and cultures are different, but in the States our percentage of abused males to abused females is consistently about 20% and under-reported for societal and psychological reasons. Pamphlets provided to lesbians by their health agencies concentrate on emotional and verbal abuse, which, directed at a man who is drunk or emotionally unstable can result in a physical response. Male are much worse at verbal – they blow up and do much more damage. This does not excuse for a moment their behavior, and female/female can be pretty violent. I myself was hit, tackled, slapped, and verbally assaulted with such vehemence that our neighbor told me later “I thought she was going to kill you.” These events diminished over time, but the effects lingered after the divorce. Here we say “the first time you get hit, get out” and I should have. But … sometimes you just hope she or he will get over it … and I made the mistake so many abused spouses do.

  6. Anindya Sarkar says:

    I so agree with you about broadening the ambit of discourse. People without the set definition of coincidence of gender and sex will be stereotyped in the light of such events with their sexuality being the core issue. There is an element of voyeurism in the journalism that tries to give a salacious slant rather than a deliberative one, for reasons of pol economy. The bigger question is what kind of democracy are we living in when a person’s right to privacy is breached mercilessly as in this case? Rape or no rape (she is still an accused), everyone deserves to be presumed innocent till proven guilty. Till then, instead of focussing on the individual, we can do with some of Barkha Dutt’s wisdom(and i say this with wistfulness since mainstream media is what most ppl follow) on the existing legal structures in this country that are still pitifully antiquated and assymetric in nature.

  7. Priyanka says:

    Dipanjan and Ruru, according to the print media here, she has a vaguely-explained ‘hormonal imbalance’ — more androgen than the average female. The parameters of being ‘male’ might be different, however, for sports and society. At least in this case. In Pinky’s case, if there are ‘incriminating’ pictures, then there might be signs of male genitalia. Or, as her family has suggested, this might be a fabricated case of blackmail. But the point is, where does our law stand vis a vis people who genuinely have non-binary gender/sexual identity?

  8. dipanjan says:

    “Our” Victorian penal codes were written in 1860s. You cannot expect from them an understanding of sexual continuum. Seems a rewrite of 375/376 should have been attempted along with the de-criminalization of 377.

    • Priyanka says:

      I don’t. I do, however, expect wider efforts to review and update them (and not just a metro-city high court’s efforts). I’ve met people in the business of law who are absurdly pleased that our laws are “still authentic”, still “the originals”, carefully protected from social change even when our original lawgivers have moved beyond them.

  9. dipanjan says:

    Brilliant post, btw. I especially liked the point about “equal and opposite reaction”. Transphobia is real. Transgender killers are over-represented in fiction while in real-life they are primarily the victims. Media watchdogs are needed. But none of that means transgenders are incapable of crimes.

  10. Jhuma Sen says:

    I think it is not about a binary representation re trans and crime. The rape is one issue and domestic violence does occur in same sex couples as well. The law needs to be broadened yada yada.

    Here the reason many are miffed is primarily because of the media antics over this. And let us be honest, not just the media, the police as well. The ‘evidence’ which rests with the police apparently consists of photos of naked pinki which were taken by the partner and provided to the cops. The cops have supplied that to the media! Wonderful! And on what ground exactly is pinki being kept in the men’s cell? Pinki has not identified ‘herself’ as queer, this could well be a case of intersex variation. Lord knows what ‘gender test’ was done; although my belief is it was a biological sex determination test that was done and that itself is a tricky business.

    What is most irksome is the heteronormative binary of representation. Of course everyone can commit a crime, but like other accused of committing a crime, let the person first undergo a free and fair trial after a full investigation into the nature of the offense. Would you have noticed a ‘male’ accused of a similar crime facing the same ordeal? I think there is a reason why a lot of people are angry.

  11. Priyanka says:

    This was precisely my point, Jhuma. Perhaps I didn’t articulate it well enough. The ‘monstrosity’ I spoke of is what really annoyed me — and frankly, made me ashamed of our society, law enforcement and media. Had Pinky been biologically and socially male, chances are the domestic violence charges would barely have stuck (let’s not forget that the police refused to take action till these pictures showed up). It is precisely because she’s a social monstrosity, a ‘freak’ — or so the media would gleefully have us believe — that this one domestic abuse case is scoring the TRPs, and most people have already decided she’s guilty.

    Actually, let me amend that. The putative rape has become a corollary. The gender-gossip is scoring the TRPs.

    But, none of the prejudice, transphobia, mishandling et al should wipe the slate clean for Pinki. Her former lover may well have been a lying blackmailer, but she — and Pinky too, who could have beeb wrongly accused — deserves a have the facts established by fair trial (or as fair a trial as can be expected). I have no time for bleeding-heart ‘activists’ who say that because Pinky putatively belongs to a persecuted minority, she can never be the perpetrator of a crime. That’s just silly.

    • Jhuma Sen says:

      Oh no my rant was mostly rhetoric and not directed at you. And what you said is precisely my point-that the issue of rape is not scoring points, which way pinki swings is. The way most news channels are describing ‘her’ is plainly nauseating.

      • Priyanka says:

        I suppose I’m missing out on a clear view of my fellow citizens by not watching TV. Maybe I should start again. In the interests of anthropology :P

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