The Times of India: “Male, female and the third option”

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Payoshni Mitra writes in The Times of India on the case of athlete Pinki Pramanik, arrested for rape in a case where she is alleged to have promised to marry a women “but later denied” – see “Gold medallist Pinki Pramanik accused of being male, held for ‘rape'”.

Mitra, an independent researcher on gender and sport issues, comments:

…Sex tests have become an awkward model for detecting what is medically called ‘Disorder of Sex Development’, as is noticed in the case of Caster Semenya or Santhi Soundarajan. The current frenzy around Pinki Pramanik’s case, frequently referred to as ‘bizarre’ or ‘curious’, exposes the general lack of knowledge about certain possibilities that may push the comfortable limits of debates surrounding these issues towards a more nuanced understanding of the divergences of sex development. There is an inadequacy in understanding inter-sexuality, an unwillingness to rethink the male-female binary…

Intersex management, gender assignment and surgery were based on John Money’s finding for more than four decades since the 1950s. Money recommended that sex assignment and required surgery should be conducted as early in life as possible, as his experiments suggested that sexual behaviour and orientation as male or female does not have an innate instinctive basis.

However, in 1974, an endocrinologist, Julianne Imperato-Mcginley, and her associates concluded that gender identity is not unalterably fixed in childhood but that it continually evolves.

While working on sport and intersexuality, I have realised that the problem lies with the medical management of intersexuality. Doctors assign sex to a new born on the basis of the child’s genitalia or more specifically the size of the genital tubercle. Doctors I have interviewed in India have admitted this and medical literature implies that it is preferable to assign female sex in case of ambiguity because it is surgically easier to create a female genitalia rather than a male one. Many such persons grow up to realise that they have a different biologic sex.

In India, the problem also lies with the law. It strictly defines a man as a ‘male human being of any age’ and a woman as a ‘female human being of any age’, with no mention of a third option. Also, the perpetrator of rape, according to the Indian law, has to be a man and the victim a woman…


OII does not support the creation of a third gender category, but we do support the ability for all adults to choose not to specify their sex or gender.