In a historical landmark, Dutee Chand, the 100-metre national record holder and winner of two silver medals at the 2018 Asian Games, told The Sunday Express that she is in a same-sex relationship.
The 23-year-old sprinter, who is also called “the fastest Indian women”, was born in Chaka Gopalpur, a village in Odisha’s Jajpur district. She told the media that she has known her partner, who is from the same village as her, for three years from now. “I believe everyone should have the freedom to be with whoever they decide they want to be with. I have always supported the rights of those who want to be in a same-sex relationship. It is an individual person’s choice,” she told The Sunday Express.
With this, Dutee became one of the very few openly gay athletes in India.
The sports federation and gender rights activist around India and the world have shown support for Dutee in the past two days.
Her stand is seen by many as a motivating act. Many feel that Dutee’s decision to make her relationship public may provide young people with a sense of comfort about their sexuality and may even make it easier for some who want to come out as queer.
Chand took the decision to make her relationship public after the Indian Supreme Court decriminalised same-sex love. However, the backlash that she has faced from her own family and the insensitive treatment of the issue by the media shows how the right to privacy is still not considered a basic right in India.
Response of Media
Chand had deliberately taken the decision of not identifying her partner in public because she did not want her to become the “centre of undue attention”. She had requested the media not to spread anything that may jeopardise her professional or personal life and the life of her partner.
However, in the past days, she has had to “take recourse of the law” because some media organisations were adamant to intrude into her private life since her announcement. Despite her request, these organisations had gone on to dig and reveal the name and picture of Dutee’s partner by scrambling through Dutee’s social media accounts. Such treatment goes on to show the lack of respect that media and other institutions of our society have for the right of privacy of an individual.
Response of Family
Dutee, the third of seven siblings, has also highlighted that her family has not been supportive of her relationship. Even though she had been receiving support from her family during her earlier battles in her profession, this time the situation is not so easy, Dutee told the media.
The lack of support that Dutee has received from her family shows that even though India has decriminalised same-sex love, there is still a long way to go.
Her mother, Akhoji Chand, said that it’s not possible for her to accept her daughter’s relationship status. “Dutee may not keep father and mother’s name but she should keep the prestige of the nation through her sports,” she told reporters.
Dutee’s sister, Saraswati Chand, who is also an athlete, had earlier attempted to blackmail Dutee by making her relationship public. And once Dutee did that herself, her sister refused to accept the relationship by claiming that Dutee is being “pressurised and blackmailed” by her partner.
Dutee also told the media that her sister had threatened to throw her out of the house for admitting to being in love with a woman. “I have been telling them for months now, but they wouldn’t listen to me,” she said. “But why should I be embarrassed? This is my life. Perhaps, someone may just be able to come out because I spoke about it,” she added.
The lack of support that Dutee has received from her family shows that even though India has decriminalised same-sex love, there is still a long way to go. The LGBTQIA+ community still lacks basic support in our nation.
Earlier Battles of Dutee Chand
Dutee Chand has been a torchbearer in fighting for the issues of gender justice in the field of athletics. In 2014, she became subject to the long history of sexism present in sports. Just months after she won two gold medals at the Asian Junior Athletics Championship in Taipei, Dutee was dropped from India’s Commonwealth Team. The reason given for the same was the presence of excess androgen, specifically testosterone, in her body.
Dutee challenged her forced exile from the track and moved the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne against the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) rules on Hyperandrogenism, which put a cap on the testosterone levels of women athletes who wanted to compete in track and field events. And, she won! In 2018, the IAAF withdrew the rules which allowed her to run in the 100 and 200 metres.
“I was asked to prove I am girl, and I proved it. Now, I don’t need to prove anything anymore. They will have to accept it, I am not doing anything wrong,” she said.
Victories in The Career of Dutee Chand
Dutee has been currently practising for the world championships and her nearest target is the Tokyo Olympics of 2020.
Dutee Chand has been a torchbearer in fighting for the issues of gender justice in the field of athletics.
Chand has been a sprinter for the past 10 years. Her first major win came in 2012 when she became the National Champion in the Under 18 category of the 100 metres event. In 2013, she won the Bronze medal in the Asian Athletics Championship at Pune.
Chand was the first Indian sprinter to reach the final of a global athletics event, the World Youth Championships in 2013. In the same year, she also became the National Champion in the 100 and 200 metres categories at the National Senior Athletics Championship at Ranchi.
She set the Indian national record at 7.28 seconds in the qualification round of the Asian Indoor Athletics Championship in 2016 and went on the win the Bronze medal in the final event of the same. She then went on to break the 100 metres national record after clocking 11.24 seconds at the 26th International Meeting at Almaty in Kazakhstan. In the same year, she also became the third Indian woman ever to participate in the women’s 100 metres sprint. In the 2018 Asian Games, Dutee won the silver medal in the women’s 100 metres sprint. This was her first Asian Games’ medal.
Dutee Chand was quoted as saying that “I believe nobody has the right to judge me as an athlete because of my decision to be with who I want. It is a personal decision, which should be respected”.
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