India’s fastest sprinter, and first openly gay athlete, Dutee Chand, is facing a severe backlash in her home village of Chaka Gopalpur after she publicly revealed that she believed her partner to be her “soulmate”.
While the 23-year-old also received praise for her courage in coming out, news outlets are reporting that the backlash has been so severe that even her partner has found it necessary to relocate to another town because of hostile remarks by people in their village.
Speaking to the Indian Express, Chand’s mother, Akhuji, said that while she has been supporting her daughter all along for “her special interest in sports”, ultimately they “belong to a traditional weaver community, which does not permit such things. How can we face our relatives and society?”
The newspaper also spoke to another villager, Prashant Behra, who confirmed that it is “humiliating for all of us”.
“We have supported her all the way in her running but we cannot accept this relationship. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman. She should never have talked about it to the whole world. She should stick to running,” Behra added.
Chand, however, remains defiant. “They have been telling me to marry a man and have children. That’s the only tradition they know,” she is quoted as saying.
“But everyone I know in the city where I studied supports me. I don’t know if my family and village will come round. I will have to wait and see.”