June 19, 2012 19 Comments
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“.