The most recent athlete to join the sports’ LGBT community is none other than India’s sprinter Dutee Chand. However, the latest news is that she has been disowned by her village.
Local reaction was hostile in Chaka Gopalpur, a village of weavers in Odisha, after Dutee Chand, the country’s fastest sprinter, told reporters on 19 May that her gay partner was her soulmate.
Image Courtesy: Mygoodtimes.com
Chand’s mother, Akhuji, told the Indian Express: “I had been supporting her all along for her special interest in sports but … we belong to a traditional weaver community, which does not permit such things. How can we face our relatives and society?”
Prashant Behra, a villager, said: “It’s humiliating for all of us. We have supported her all the way in her interest in sports but we cannot accept this relationship. Marriage can only be in between a man and a woman. She should never have talked about it to the whole world. She should simply stick to running.”
But the backlash is thought to have taken her aback. Her partner has now left for another town because of hostile remarks by people in their village.
“Everyone needs companionship. I want to be with someone I love and who loves me, and I found all this in my Saathi (partner),” says Dutee over the phone from Bhubaneswar. “As for the society, it will criticize any sort of change…anything that they haven’t seen or aren’t used to. I can’t spend my life thinking about others,” she says.
Image Courtesy: MSN
Fear for Dutee’s safety
Supporters of India’s first openly gay athlete now fear for her safety. Especially after her decision to come out prompted a backlash in her home village.
On 26 May, a 19-year-old woman in Odisha was dragged out of her house, tied to a tree and beaten by villagers for being in a lesbian relationship. Reports say that the assault had happened after villagers found the two women in bed.
Payoshni Mitra, a former government-appointed adviser to Chand who now works as an athletes’ rights activist, said: “With the return of the rightwing Bharatiya Janata party to power, a series of attacks on minorities, including sexual minorities, are being reported.
“However, while it could be dangerous to be openly gay, one cannot live in fear of the consequences – and Dutee’s coming out gives us that message.”
While same-sex relationships are legal in our country, they are yet to be accepted by rural India. Further, it may take a longer time than expected for change to be seen.