Dr Samrat Bordoloi,
Anand Diagnostic Laboratory
The joy of motherhood transcends all castes, creeds, religions and even species. We associate motherhood with only women and naturally attribute all its consequences to them. While this may be true for a lot of things, one of the biggest fallouts of this is concept is sex determination, the horrors of female feticide and the blame game that follows.
Our civic society has stepped into the 21st century and we like to call ourselves modern and liberal. But our views regarding pregnancy are still archaic and this is due to the generations of reinforcement of the age-old concepts that happens in our families along with the reluctance to break the myths.
In this section today, we will try and break the myth of pregnancy and gender determination. But before we dwell into this, let us start with something more basic. What makes us humans? What makes us tall, short, fat, thin, dark, fair, in short, what determines our physical characteristics including whether we are males or females. To answer this question, I would like to take the example of computers since we are based in Bengaluru, the IT capital of our country. All computers work on software, which determines how the hardware works. But look at the ingenuity of nature, the genetic code (software) not only determines how our body (hardware) functions but as well as the physical characteristics of our body. These genes are present inside every cell of our body strung together like a necklace of pearls called chromosome.
We have 23 pairs of these chromosomes (46 in total). Now the genes that determine whether we are born as a boy or a girl are the sex chromosomes called X and Y and they form a pair.
The X chromosome determines the characters of a girl and the Y chromosome determines the characters of a boy. So if we have a pair of X chromosomes (XX) then physically we are born as a girl. But interestingly if we have only one Y paired with an X (XY) then we turn out to be a boy. Nature does like to keep it simple.
Now how do we end up getting an X chromosome or a Y chromosome? This is the interesting part, and please read it carefully. We get one chromosome each from our mother and our father to form a pair. Hence for a girl to be born, one X chromosome should come from the mother and one from the father. But for a boy to be born, the X chromosome comes from the mother and the Y chromosome from the father.
Hence it is the father that contributes the genes required to give birth to a baby boy. Does this mean that the father is responsible? No, not really. The process is not in anyone’s hand. Every time this happens it’s a 50:50 chance. Both the X chromosome and the Y chromosome of the father has an equal chance to combine with the X chromosome of the mother. Which one will, is pure chance.
This means that no one can predetermine whether a girl or a boy will be born. Neither the father nor the mother. It is one of those things that is like the toss of a coin, an equal chance for a head or a tail.
So dear readers, we can all imagine, what our ignorance has cost our mothers, daughters and sisters through generation after generation.
Let us all open our minds to scientific evidence and logic so that the darkness of myths and folklore can be shunned away with the light of knowledge. Let us celebrate the girl child and stop the menace of female feticide.
Salute to all the brave women who fight this battle every single day….
Happy Women’s Day