Pinki Pramanik, a female Asian Games gold medallist, who was arrested on June 14 after being accused of rape by her live-in partner of three years, a 30-year-old woman, who claims her former partner to be a man, may have her human rights violated, says the West Bengal Human Rights Commission (WBHRC).
Since her arrest last month, Pramanik was seen groped by policemen under the glare of media cameras while transferring her between court, hospital and prison where she was first kept in the male ward of a prison after she was given 14 days judicial custody by district court on June 15 before being moved to another cell in the same prison. Her counsel Tuhin Roy said he doesn't know exactly how many days Pinki was kept in the male cell.
The 26-year-old, who won gold in the 4x400 metres relay at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Qatar and silver at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games the same year, has since been suspended from her Indian Railways job following her arrest.
Pramanik's plight got worse after a 29-second video clip reportedly showing her in nude as she was undergoing one of several medical tests to determine her gender went viral.
Human rights activists and members of the sports fraternity have since protested the handling of her case.
Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) secretariat member Ranajit Sur, who has appealed to the West Bengal Human Rights Commission (WBHRC) to investigate, was quoted as saying in the media: "Until prove(n) otherwise, Pinki is a female and the way the police are treating her is deplorable. We have approached the WBHRC giving evidence about how Pinki has been continuously sexually harassed ever since she was arrested.
"For nearly three weeks, Pramanik has been in judicial custody. Therefore, the entire responsibility of allowing this MMS clip to have been created rests with the administration. The commission must therefore enquire the entire matter and punish the guilty," added Sur."
According to the media, the West Bengal human rights panel has sought a report from the government within seven days.
"The commission has asked the home secretary and the director general of police to initiate a probe by a senior police officer into the allegation of human rights violation of Pinki Pramanik and submit a report within seven days," West Bengal Human Rights Commission (WBHRC) Joint Secretary Sujay Kumar Haldar told IANS.
The case, which has made headlines in India, attracted an editorial in The Hindu that reads: "Ms Pramanik’s treatment tells us something profoundly disturbing about the society we inhabit. Ensuring dignity for the sexuality of citizens is one of the keystones of a democratic polity. Human sexuality is a powerful yet private sphere for citizens to exercise freedoms, which is why political and religious despots have often sought to regulate and punish perceived deviance. The assault on Ms Pramanik’s dignity comes at a time when political reactionaries and religious bigots are increasingly colluding to police our private lives. The hounding of Ms Pramanik also reinforces the stigmatisation of the millions of intersex people in this country. Late in the last century, research established that diverse forms of sexual physicality are not diseases to be treated. Nature is less doctrinaire in its approach to gender than our minds — a fact Hindu tradition, among others, has long acknowledged. Even though modern surgery has made it possible to stamp out what society considers to be aberrations, there is an ongoing debate on precisely when such intervention is appropriate. Ms Pramanik might or might not be guilty of the crime she is accused of, but her dignity must be restored — starting now. The individuals who made the video, the medical personnel who allowed it to be taken, and the police officers on whose watch this crime occurred, must be punished. For full justice to be done, though, we must search inwards, within our culture that engendered an audience for this sordid spectacle."