CHANDIGARH: As obsession with the male child continues to be a harsh reality in India, it’s mothers who are usually blamed for giving birth to girl child. An important step in raising awareness to stop this has been taken in Punjab where, perhaps in a first in the country, Genetic Literacy Clubs have been formed to educate people that the child’s gender is determined by the father’s genes, not that of the mother’s.
To change this attitude, Pushpa Gujral Science City in Kapurthala has started a project, ‘Women Empowerment through Genetic Literacy: An Innovative Intervention’.
Dr Loveleen Brar, Scientist B at Pushpa Gujral Science City and Co-Principal Investigator of the project, told The Sunday Standard, “It has been observed that efforts so far have mainly been concentrated on awareness programmes regarding prohibition of sex selection and misuse of diagnostic techniques for sex determination. Little had been done to change mindsets based on scientific facts that a woman neither determines the sex of the child nor is responsible for genetic disorders in a child. This programme will create awareness at various levels to deal with the problem and will go a long way in women empowerment by building their self esteem.”
Ignorance of medical facts remains a major problem in rural areas. Brar said that a mother of three daughters shared during an interactive session that she was beaten up after giving birth to her second daughter and that her status in the family improved only after the birth of her son.
“For the embryo, the woman contributes only X chromosomes and if the man also contributes X chromosomes, then a girl is born. If the man contributes Y chromosome, the child will be a boy. It is a biological fact that the Y chromosome, whose presence makes a male baby, is contributed by the father. The meaning is obvious: it is the father and never ever the mother who is responsible for the gender of the child,” she said.
And this is what’s hammered in to participants in the interactive sessions. The project also aims at promoting awareness among people about genetic disorders and importance of prenatal diagnosis.
Dr Rajesh Grover, Director of Pushpa Gujral Science City and Principal Investigator of the project, said that the project envisages establishing 80 Genetic Literacy clubs in villages and schools across Punjab in the first phase.
The clubs comprise of 15-20 members to whom training is being imparted on genetic literacy, who will further spread awareness in their localities. Each club will have a president and vice-president, both women. These members will be involved in organising activities like interactive talks and street plays to create awareness on various issues, including scientific basis that determines foetus sex, genetic disorders and their early diagnosis.