ALSO READ: Dutee faces family’s ire
Speaking to TOI from Hyderabad, where she is training for the upcoming World Athletic Championship, the Olympian explained why she felt compelled to make her relationship public and why threats of expulsion from her family don’t matter.
‘THE SUPREME COURT VERDICT ON SECTION 377 EMPOWERED US TO COME OUT IN PUBLIC’
Dutee is known for becoming the first Indian since PT Usha to compete in the 100m sprint in the Olympics. She has also won medals in 100m and 200m in the Asian Games and Asian Championships.
The 23-year-old said that she was emboldened by the Supreme Court verdict on Section 377 last year.
“The Supreme Court verdict has been like a breath of fresh air for us. It has reinforced what we always say: Nobody should judge us just for who we want to be with and who we love. It’s a very personal choice. I am not hurting anyone. After the verdict, we felt empowered to come out in public. We felt it was time the world knew.”
However, Dutee said she does not want to make her partner’s name public.
“She doesn’t want to be out in public. I respect her wishes. I am used to this limelight but she isn’t and I don’t want her to be bothered by this attention,” she clarifies.
All she told is that her partner is a 19-year-old studying in Bhubaneshwar and that they have known each other for five years.
“We met because she wanted to be a sportsperson too and she came up to me for advice. Over the years, we grew close. She is the most important person to me,” said Dutee.
‘I AM AN ADULT, WON’T BOW DOWN TO FAMILY PRESSURE’
There are reports doing rounds of her family threatening Dutee with expulsion after the news surfaced but the athlete said she is unfazed by all of it.
“My older sister has threatened to throw me out of the house. She did the same with my brother because she didn’t like his wife. But I did not want to bow down to her. I am an adult. She can do what she want but I wanted to make this public for two reasons. It is nothing wrong and I am not ashamed of it. I proudly say I am in a same-sex relationship,” she said.
On her part, Saraswati Chand, Dutee’s elder sister, said that the sprinter’s partner “pressurised and blackmailed” her for wealth and property.
SETTING AN EXAMPLE
In a country like India, where a lot of people still shy away from making their sexual orientation public because of societal prejudices, Dutee felt duty-bound to break that cycle.
She said, “I think I am a sportsperson. A lot of people look up to me, so I have the responsibility to set the right example for them. I think people will see my medals and my performance for my country and not what I do off the field. They like me because I win for the country and I will continue to do so.”
‘MY FOCUS WILL ALWAYS BE MY ATHLETIC CAREER’
The World Athletics Championship begins in just four months’ time and Dutee is busy preparing. Is she concerned that the media attention on her relationship will derail her training?
“This attention has come at a time when I am preparing for the World Championships, so the coaches are a bit annoyed but my focus is not wavering,” she said. “My focus will always be my athletic career and winning more medals for the country. Yes, in future, I would want to settle down with her, but that’s some time away,” she signed off.