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Boy or Girl: What Determines the Sex of a Baby? A Gynaecologist Breaks It Down

Despite the science of it being so straightforward, women are often held responsible for the sex of the child.

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Video Editor: Prashant Chauhan

Graphics/Illustrations: Vibhushita Singh

On 8 January, the Delhi High Court, while addressing a case of dowry death, said that women are still being harassed by husbands and their families for birthing girl children.

In her judgment Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma said, "This Court having dealt with numerous cases of harassment, nagging and committing of suicide or dowry deaths due to the victim being victimized for giving birth to daughters...is constrained to observe that such people need to be educated that it is their son and not their daughter-in-law whose chromosomes through union of a married couple will decide the birth of a daughter or a son."

She went on to say that it's unfortunate that many are still ignorant about the genetic science at play here.

Speaking to FIT, renowned Gynaecologist Dr Nozer Sheriar breaks down the science.

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Reproductive Health 101: How Is the Sex of a Baby Determined?

The genetics of the foetus when it comes to gender is influenced by the males but not consciously, says Dr Nozer Sheriar.

"All of us have 46 chromosomes 23 pairs there's one pair called the sex chromosomes which makes us genetically male or female," he says.

"So a woman has two X chromosomes all she can do is to give her foetus an X chromosome. The difference comes from the male whose got an X chromosome and a Y chromosome."
Dr Nozer Sheriar

He explains that the gender of the foetus depends on if the sperm is an X chromosome-bearing sperm or a Y chromosome-bearing sperm. But of course, which it will end up being is not in the control of the male partner either.

Why Then, Is the Woman Still Held Responsible for It?

Despite the science of it being so straightforward, women are often held responsible for the sex of the child, which in extreme cases also translates to physical harm.

"When it comes to blame, shame, expense unfortunately, women take the burden of the responsibility of a lot of things when it comes to reproductive health,"says Dr Sheriar.

 According to him, Justice Sharma's statement "is a great starting point for conversation when it comes to who takes responsibility."

"I think at the end of the day nobody has to take the responsibilty. And if anything, it has to be shared it has to be fair and it can never be the burden of just one of the two."
Dr Nozer Sheriar
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Is It Possible to Influence Which Sex Is Conceived?

In India, the PCPND (Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques) Act makes it illegal to attempt sex selection.

But, says Dr Sheriar, "people are continuously trying all kinds of crazy stuff."

"Anything from diet to Chinese calendar to some forms of really irrational treatments and trust me, at the end of the day nothing works."
Dr Nozer Sheriar

"Someone is trying to take (advantage) of vulnerability of people and influence them with acidic and alkaline diets and vaginal environments please, nothing works," he adds.


According to Dr Sheriar, "at the end of it when a couple is looking to have a pregnancy and a baby all they should be praying for is it goes well and they have a nice health baby at the end of it."

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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