New Delhi: 100m record holder and winner of two Asian Games silver medals Dutee Chand on Sunday revealed that she is in a same-sex relationship with a girl from her home town. The 23-year-old is thus the first Indian sportsperson to admit to being in a same-sex relationship.
Chand revealed that she has been in a relationship with the girl for the past three years. While the couple had not thought of it as a long-term affair, the historic Supreme Court verdict in September 2018 that decriminalised same-sex relationships between consenting adults provided the impetus for them to arrive at a decision of spending their lives with each other.
"When the Supreme Court ruling came on Section 377, then we decided that there is no harm in spending our lives with each other. We decided that we will get married and have a small family for ourselves," she said.
"She is from my town and a sports fan herself. She read about the struggles that I have gone through to make a career in sports and told me that she was inspired by my story. That is how we came in touch with each other," revealed Chand.
Unapologetic about her same-sex relationship with a younger relative, India's fastest woman Dutee Chand is facing a tough battle of acceptance in her family.
Dutee, who won two silver medals at the 2018 Asian Games, became one of the few athletes in the world to openly admit same-sex relationship.
"I am having a relationship with a 19-year-old woman from my village for the past five years. She is studying B.A. 2nd year in a Bhubaneswar college. She is a relative of mine and whenever I come to home, I spend time with her. She is a kind of soul-mate for me and I want to settle down with her in future," Chand, 23, told PTI from Hyderabad where she is training.
"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.
"My eldest sister feels that my partner is interested in my property. She has told me that she will send me to jail for having this relationship," she said.
While Dutee refused to name her partner, she said the Supreme Court judgement on the issue gave her the courage to go public.
"My partner also agreed that we should make this public and face whatever repercussions it may bring to us. I believe in individual freedom and right to decide how and with whom I will live my life."
She said another reason for coming out in the open was that she did not want something which happened with sprinter Pinki Pramanik, who was accused of rape by her live-in partner.
Pinki was a member of the 2006 Asian Games 4x400m relay gold winning team.
Dutee said her partner is free to marry whoever she wants to if she decides to do so in future.
"I will continue my athletics career. I am going to take part in the World University Games next month and hope to qualify for the World Championships later this year. My aim to qualify for next year's Olympics, so I am training hard," she said.
While she does not want to reveal the name of her partner, Chand said that her decision to make the information public was based on her belief that she has the right to live her life the way she wants it.
"What we are doing is no crime. It is our life and we have the right to live it the way we deem right. I am in the public eye now because I am playing for the country but I will still have a lot of life left to live once I leave sports," she said.
Chand said that her partner has been a valuable support for her over the past two years. "She has not been able to come with me for the big events but she always prays for me when I am playing. We both never really get to spend too much time with each other but she is very supportive of me in my endeavours," she said.
The ace sprinter said that she is yet to tell her parents about the relationship. She is confident that they will accept it. "I have been playing for the country for a long time now and they have been happy with whatever I have done so far. Hopefully, they will understand this too," she said.
Born in Chaka Gopalpur in Odisha to two cotton weavers, Chand has been championing the cause of eligibility of female athletes in track and field events.
She successfully moved the Court of Arbitration of Sports (CAS) against the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) rules on hyperandrogenism, which put a limit on testosterone levels of women competing in track and field events.
The rules were withdrawn in 2018 and that same year Chand won two silver medals at the Asian Games. Her 100m silver was India's first at the Asiad in 32 years, while her 200m silver was the country's first in 16.
She is currently training in Hyderabad to qualify for the World Championships and the Tokyo Olympics that will be held in 2020.