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HindustanTimes Sat,23 Aug 2014

Jail officials tread gender tightrope over Pramanik

Bibhas Bhattacharyya, Hindustan Times  Kolkata, July 05, 2012
First Published: 23:18 IST(5/7/2012) | Last Updated: 23:21 IST(5/7/2012)

Caught in a gender bender, West Bengal prison authorities are having sleepless nights. Where to lodge athlete Pinki Pramanik — who is undergoing a gender determination test — has become a Catch 22 question.

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Should the accused in a rape case be lodged in a women’s cell? Or should a woman who is yet to be proved a man, be housed with men? The authorities took no chances. Their solution: Man’s cell. Woman guard. Man guard to protect woman guard. But still, they failed to please.

After it was reported that Pramanik had been lodged in a male cell, the state human rights commission ordered a probe, alleging the athlete has been harassed by the government.

Turning the screws further on the government, on Thursday, the Calcutta HC admitted a petition by Bharati Mutsuddi, former member of state women’s commission. The hearing would start on Friday.

Tormented by allegations of unfair treatment, inspector general (IG) prisons Ranvir Kumar indicated that a decision on the matter had been no jaywalk. “How could we risk lodging a rape accused in a female ward?” he said.

The confused authorities had fallen back on court papers, which mentioned the undertrial as the “son of”, Kumar told Hindustan Times.

 “Accordingly, we decided to put her in male cell block of Dumdum Central jail.”

But in case the court papers carry no weight with activists, the authorities have taken the unprecedented precaution of stationing a female guard outside the “man’s” cell.

 And to balance the matter further, a male guard has been stationed a few feet away.

But with the balancing act failing to suffice, all concerned are hoping for a speedy end to the dilemma. Pramanik was a middle distance runner who won gold at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha in the 4x400 metres relay race.


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