Questions are being raised about the treatment being meted out to international-level athlete Pinki Pramanik by the authorities as well as the media, even as the police and medical professionals are floundering while trying to conduct a conclusive gender-confirming test.
The report based on certain tests conducted by an 11-member committee at the State-run SSKM hospital was submitted to a district court in Barasat on Thursday. The team has not yet conducted a karyotype test, which depends on chromosomal examination.
“There is a lot that is objectionable in the way the case is being projected in the media,” Malini Bhattacharya, former chairperson of the West Bengal Commission for Women, told The Hindu.
Television channels and newspapers covering the story have made no attempt to blur Pramanik’s face in their images. Reports with claims that Pramanik “bribed officials to hide her gender,” or those with misleading headlines: “athlete sent to jail for rape” (Pramanik has been remanded in judicial custody), are circulating on the internet. If the allegations against Pinki Pramanik are proven, then of course due punishment must be awarded. But in this case, throughout the investigation process, the athlete’s ordeal continues, Ms. Bhattacharya said.
Ms. Bhattacharya said that although by law there is no provision for protecting the identity of the accused, in a case that is this sensitive, certainly there was need for greater discretion. “At the very outset, it was widely reported that a test conducted in a private hospital had proved that Pramanik was a man. The police had no reason for divulging such information,” she said.
Ms. Bhattacharya also pointed out that until Pramanik’s gender was proven, the athlete had to be treated as a woman. But throughout the conduct of the investigations, male policemen have escorted Pramanik.
“Irrespective of what the investigations reveal, why should Pramanik be subjected to this harassment and degrading treatment,” asked human rights activist Sujato Bhadra.
Pramanik was arrested on the basis of a police complaint filed by a neighbour alleging that the athlete was actually a man and had repeatedly raped and tortured her.