Dutee Chand, who is a professional female sprinter, and also the first Indian to reach the finals of a global athletics championship in the 100 metres category. But what brings her name to the headlines today is because she is the first Indian sportsperson to reveal being in a same-sex relationship.
She said, “I am having a relationship with a 19-year-old woman from my village for the past five years. I have found someone who is my soulmate. I have always believed that everyone should have the freedom to love. There is no greater emotion than love and it should not be denied.”
The 23-year-old athlete had said that it was after the Supreme Court’s historic decision to read down the 158-year-old Section 377 that she got the courage to open up about her relationship. She further added that nobody has the right to judge her as an athlete and her personal decision must be respected. But as expected, this didn’t go down well in our society despite her sporting accolades. Even though her parents have not raised any objection, her eldest sister has threatened to not only expel her from the family but also send her to jail.
She said, “My eldest sister kind of wields power and authority in my family. She has thrown out my elder brother from home because she does not like his wife. She has threatened me that same will happen to me. But I am also an adult who has individual freedom. So, I decided to go ahead with this and make it public.”
This public acceptance of sexuality by a celebrated athlete who is at the peak of her career comes as a stepping stone for our country. Though the Supreme Court had decriminalised homosexuality in September 2018, it was a hard pill for many Indians to swallow. Changes in India have always been slow; instead of accepting something new, it is always been labelled as unnatural. But, this courageous act by Dutee Chand can and will definitely give power to many common people to open up about their sexuality to their families and friends.
But what can we as a society do? We should be like Chand’s parents who don’t raise objections and not like her eldest sister. We shouldn’t label people abnormal or diseased. The faster the society accepts queer people, the faster the growth of humanity will be.
Let me give you a small example. Whenever somebody is forced to marry against their will, they get agitated. Now imagine if we force someone to be somebody they are not, what psychological turmoil will that person go through? If the same person is forcefully married off to someone to whom they are not attracted to, what will it result in? We will be destroying the mental and physical states of two people in this way.
This step by Chand must break the walls that people build around themselves in the name of abnormality. The LGBTQ need to feel safe enough to open up. India is still lagging behind when it comes to ensuring equal rights. Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage on May 17, 2019, and we haven’t even accepted the LGBTQ community, let alone allow marriage equality. We have a long way to go in order to achieve equality, and, with our acts of humanity, we can definitely achieve our and the nation’s goals faster.