A gold medallist in women’s athletics, Pinki Pramanik found herself being accused of rape and subjected to a gender test last month. Speaking of the ordeal to Dola Mitra at her home in Calcutta after her release from prison, she broke down several times. Her mother, who was also present in the room, dismissed any “ambiguity” about Pinki’s gender—“She is just like all my other four daughters. Her original name was Jyotsna, which means moonlight, and she had a pink complexion, so we called her Pinki.”
What was your first reaction when it was said that you are a male and that you raped a woman?
The girl who brought these allegations had taken nude photographs of me and was threatening to make them public. She had been blackmailing me for some time, asking me to write my house in her name or give her 20 lakh rupees. She had also been stealing from me, and most recently, while I was sleeping, she stole the gold chain which I wear around my neck. But to be accused of being male and raping her shocked me.
The girl also claimed to be your partner. Did you love each other?
No. She was not my partner and we were not in love. She used to live next door on rent with her lover and her five-year-old child. The man left her two years ago and I took pity on her and told her she could stay with me as I live here alone. She used to do all the domestic chores of the house. When she started blackmailing me, my family warned me against her and told me to go to the police, but I didn’t throw her out for the sake of the little child. And if she loved me, would she do this to me? (Pinki breaks down.)
How were you treated in custody?
When they arrested me, I was led away by two male police, who grabbed me by the arms. I told them, ‘I’m not going to run away. Please don’t manhandle me’. But they didn’t listen. I was also kept in the men’s prison, though in a separate cell. I was assigned one female guard, along with one male guard, during the 26 days that I was in jail. I did not want to undergo a gender test because it is humiliating. But they forcefully subjected me to it against my wishes. I was taken to a hospital and given an injection to make me fall asleep. When I awoke, I found my hands and feet tied to the bed and all my clothes removed.
It has been reported in the media that the gender test revealed you have “unformed” male genitals, though you were not capable of penetration.
I am not male. I have always been female. As a child, I used to look very sweet. I was a normal girl, like any other, and I wore clothes like that (pointing to my salwar kameez). But now I only wear these clothes (pointing to her track-pants and polo shirt). I look more male now because, as part of my training to compete in international athletics, I used to be regularly administered testosterone injections like other female participants. It was called Russian medicine. I was told that it was necessary to take these and I never questioned whether these were legal or not. I was focused on winning and did whatever I was asked to do by my trainers, who knew what was best for me. But after that my voice became deeper and I grew more body hair.
Do you ever regret the changes?
Since childhood, I dreamt of being a runner. I have won gold for my country and that means more to me than anything else.
Has the testosterone also altered the physical attraction you feel towards men and women?
Have you been in love?
Yes, I loved a man and he was an athlete too. But it didn’t work out. However, I don’t ever want to get married to a man. Not because I am attracted to women. But many people choose not to marry.
How do you feel now?
I have locked myself in my house I don’t want to go out or show my face. I feel naked and exposed.