In India, the arrival of a girl child is not always the welcoming news. Certain families go to the extent of equating the occasion to a funeral. Some families refuse to let anyone know that a girl child is born, and they try to hide the news. Those others who get to know the news may even convey a message of condolences. When my wife delivered the second girl child, the nurses around her expressed their deepest sympathies as if it was a natural thing to do.
Though it is illegal in India to determine the sex of unborn child, many clinics in India provide these services to the eager parents. And if it turns out that it is a girl, some families go for an abortion. Some Indian clinics are notorious for carrying out such operations or a large scale. Occasionally, a bag full of girl fetuses found in the backyard of such clinics makes it to the newspapers and TV channels. There are certain states in India where the female-to-male ratio is so bad that it has started to turn into a sociological disaster – creating villages where men don’t find brides.
Now, many Indians would like to believe that such practices of discouraging girl children and aborting girl fetuses is a phenomenon of lower classes, the uneducated and the ignorant lot of India. That is not actually true. In fact, the reports suggest that it is the middle class of India which is ashamed of begetting and raising a girl child. Across India, middle class families, comprising the educated, the well-to-do, are doing everything they can do to avoid producing girls. And if a girl is born, they are being apologetic and guilty about it.
Blame the mother!
In India it is common practice to blame the mother when a girl child is born. The mother is berated and insulted for not being capable of making a boy. The mother looks silly apologizing while the whole family keeps accusing her. Some mothers who produce only girls suffer from the ignominy for the rest of their lives. Indian mythology, Indian TV serials, and Indian movies, are rife with stories, where the mother is blamed for producing a girl. In certain cases, a new wife is brought in to produce a boy.
It is common wisdom in India to believe that the mother plays the central role in deciding the sex of unborn child. The pregnant women are asked to eat certain kind of fruits to produce a boy. They are also asked to avoid certain fruits which would produce a girl. The pregnant women go through certain rituals, visit temples, do certain pujas, follow a strict diet regime, and avoid certain activities, all in effort to produce a boy.
Little bit of science would help!
So, who decides the sex of the unborn child? And when is the sex of the baby decided?
Knowing a bit of science would help.
There are nearly 100 trillion cells in our body, and each cell has the same copy of DNA in its nucleus. This copy of DNA starts out with the first cell, called the embryo, which is formed when a sperm from man fuses with an egg from the woman. The DNA comprises of 23 pairs of chromosomes. And one such pair decides the sex of the baby.
If you have XX chromosome, you are woman, and if you have XY chromosome, then you are a man. An egg and sperm contribute one half of the chromosome to decide the sex of the new baby. A woman can contribute only X chromosome no matter what, while a man could contribute either of X or Y chromosome. Therefore, it is the man who decides the sex of the new baby – contributing either X or Y chromosome. If he contributes X chromosome, the baby will be a girl (XX) and if he contributes Y chromosome, the baby will be a boy (XY).
Such knowledge would correct so many of our misconceptions on who gets to decide the sex of the unborn child. Next time you see an Indian movie or a TV serial, you will be seeing the man sitting in the corner looking apologetic and guilty for begetting a girl child while the whole family is accusing him for not being able to produce a boy. And maybe this will spice up the plots of Indian movies and TV serials, wherein the family is now looking for a new husband (instead of a new wife) to beget a son.
Also, the knowledge that the sex of the child is decided at the time of conception, and no matter what you do later, would not convert the baby into another sex, might stop all these unnecessary and frivolous practices followed by pregnant woman to make a baby boy.
But then, when did people pay attention to science?