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Why everyone is talking about Indian athlete Dutee Chand's tribute to her girlfriend

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Hollie Richardson
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Dutee Chand

Athlete Dutee Chand has opened up about being in a happy and fulfilling same-sex relationship, and it means a lot to the LGBTQ+ community in India.

Dutee Chand is a champion athlete in India, with the 100 metre record and two silver medals from the 2018 Asian Games under her belt. She’s now training to qualify for the World Championships and Tokyo Olympics 2020, where she will no doubt continue to impress.

Chand is now also the first ever Indian sportsperson to be openly gay, after talking about her same-sex relationship. Last year, the Indian Supreme Court made a historic move by decriminalising gay sex, which had been illegal for 158 years thanks to a law made under British rule. This is why Chand’s recent interview, where she referred to her girlfriend as her “soulmate” is such a step forward in India.

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“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,” she told The Indian Sunday Express. “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.”

“I have always believed that everyone should have the freedom to love,” Chand continued. “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.

Dutee Chand running in the world championships
Dutee Chand is the first openly gay Indian sportsperson

“I wanted to be with someone who will encourage me to continue being a sportsperson,” Chand concluded. “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 need someone who will support me on the personal front).”

People have applauded Chand’s comments and highlighted the significance of them, with one Twitter user writing: “Whoa. This is HUGE: India’s FIRST elite athlete ‘to acknowledge being in a same-sex relationship’. #DuteeChand has set a precedent here for athletes across sports.”

Another wrote: “Big love to Dutee Chand who has now opened up the conversation and hopefully made it that bit easier for young women and men within the Asian community to be open about their sexuality and live a free life.”

And a third added: “Make no mistake about it. This is a huge moment in Indian history, not just Indian sport. Dutee Chand has already fought countless battles against the athletics community questioning her credentials & her identity itself. It’s what makes her coming out all the more remarkable.”

But there’s still some way to go in India, as gay marriages aren’t recognised, even though there is no law prohibiting them taking place. And Chand revealed in another interview with the PTI news agency that her sister does not accept her same-sex relationship.

For now, though, this is yet another triumph for the athlete to celebrate. 

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