Intersex athlete Santhi Soundarajan seeks justice!

Earlier this week, as reported by ESPN, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) served a notice on the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in response to a petition filed by former Indian middle-distance runner Santhi Soundarajan. Santhi was stripped of her silver medal (800m) ten years ago at the Doha Asian Games, and banned from competing in all events after she failed a gender test. However, in a grave breach of protocol, she is yet to receive a copy of the gender test report despite repeated requests.

In March this year, Santhi contacted the NCSC, saying she was subjected to a “humiliating and unscientific” gender test shortly after her second-place finish at the 2006 Games. The athlete, who comes from a poor Dalit family, also alleged in her complaint that she has faced discrimination on the grounds of caste. The NCSC has decided to investigate Soundarajan’s allegations of injustice, and is seeking a response in the matter from the secretary of the Department of Sports within 30 days.

“The inhuman manner in which the gender tests were conducted and being denied the report are a clear violation,” said gender activist M Gopi Shankar, who has been working closely with Santhi. “The government should voice its support for its athletes. Santhi deserves to have her medal back and lead a life of dignity.”

We agree, and thank Shankar– who uses ze and zis pronouns — for zis activism and for assisting Santhi. On Human Rights Day 2012, participants of the 2nd International Intersex Forum delivered an open letter authored by our founder and director Hida Viloria, to the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), which mentioned Soundarajan by name in drawing attention to the discrimination which intersex female athletes face.

As Santhi told ESPN, “That athletes like Caster Semenya and Dutee Chand are competing in the international arena despite facing a similar predicament as mine offers me hope. But it also serves as a reminder that I’m not as fortunate.”

We commend the NCSC for investigating Santhi’s complaint and send her our wishes for a successful resolution!