Sprinter Dutee Chand, a national record holder in the women’s 100 metres, revealed she is in a same-sex relationship with a person whom she described as her “soulmate”. Chand, the first sportsperson in the country to come out, refused to reveal the identity of the woman who, she said, belonged to her hometown in Odisha.
“I have found someone who is my soulmate,” Chand was quoted by the Indian Express (The Sunday Express).
“I believe everyone should have the freedom to be with whoever they decide they want to be with,” she added, insisting that she will not reveal the identity of her partner as she did not want “undue attention” or media glare on her. “I have always supported the rights of those who want to be in a same-sex relationship. It is an individual person’s choice. Currently, my focus is on the World Championships and the Olympic Games but in the future I would like to settle down with her.”
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With the revelation about her sexuality, Chand, has potentially unleashed a new set of variables that could pose challenges even as she prepares to qualify for the upcoming World Championships and the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year.
Chand revealed she decided to come out and stand up for the rights of the LGBTQ community, emboldened by the Supreme Court’s historic decision to strike out the archaic Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) last year, decriminalising same-sex relationship.
While the IPC section has been scrapped, the law in India still doesn’t permit same-sex marriages. Beyond that, Indian society as a whole is yet to open up towards the LGBTQ community, and there are many hindrances that have keep them off the mainstream, in day-to-day as well as professional life.
On that front, Chand’s revelation, coming from a high profile athlete in the country, is landmark and has the potential to create enough ripples to realign social outlooks towards same-sex relationships and marriages.
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Chand is not new to struggling against the odds either. The silver medallist at the 100m and 200m in the 2018 Asian Games was in the eye of a ‘gender’ storm that has engulfed not just the athlete’s career but world athletics.
The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) disqualified Chand in 2014 as per International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF’s) hyperandrogenism policy. Tests, at the time, revealed the athlete’s body produced testosterone above the stipulated range for women athletes.
Chand challenged the regulations and filed an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne. In a landmark judgment on July 27, 2015, the CAS upheld the athlete’s appeal saying that there was no clear evidence that she benefits from her physiological condition. The hyperandrogenism policy of IAAF was deemed null and void.
While that battle was won by Chand, it did cast a huge shadow on the athlete’s career, and her achievements have always been viewed with a tinge of suspicion by the athletics establishment, just like the case of Caster Semenya of South Africa.
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