One of India's most successful athletes of all time, Dutee Chand, who won silver for the country in both 100 meter and 200 meter event at last year's Jakarta Asian Games has created history by becoming first major sportsperson from India to declare herself in a same-sex relationship.
This announcement by Chand was made in an interview given to The Indian Express' Sunday edition. She stated: "I have found someone who is my soulmate. I believe everyone should have the freedom to be with whoever they decide they want to be with. 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."
Facing troubles in the past
This revelation has made waves in the Indian social media with many people coming out in her support and praising her for what they describe as 'courage.' The 23-year old, who hails from Odisha, had been earlier caught in a controversy over her eligibility to compete as a female in events for that gender. Due to hyperandrogenism, a condition which causes women to have higher levels of androgens than what is considered normal for the sex, she was removed from the Indian athletics squad for the 2014 Commonwealth Games held in Australia's Gold Coast and the Asian Games of the same year in South Korea's Incheon.
However, in 2015, thanks to a case being filed in the Court of Arbitration for Sports on her behalf, the rules pertaining to testosterone levels in female athletes were changed and Dutee was allowed to participate again.
An uncharted territory
But her latest revelation is an even bigger step. While there are many athletes in other countries who have revealed their homosexuality and have continued their participation, India has been relatively untouched by this phenomenon. For Dutee, the Supreme Court judgement invalidating section 377 of Indian Penal Code which criminalised homosexuality was a major moment.
"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 Supreme Court of India has also struck down the old law. I believe nobody has the right to judge me as an athlete because of my decision to be with who I want. It is a personal decision, which should be respected. I will continue to strive to win medals for India at international meets," the girl from Odisha said.
While homosexuality has been de-criminalised, there is no provision in the Indian law for same-sex marriages. Yet, the sprinter looks forward to having the company of her partner. "I wanted to be with someone who will encourage me to continue being a sportsperson. I have been a sprinter for the past 10 years and I will perhaps continue to run for the next five to seven years. I travel around the world to compete. It is not easy. Mujhe kisi ka sahara bhi chahiye (I also need to have the support of someone)," the athlete added.