Mangalam, a Malayalam newspaper, published an article on 11 December titled "Do you want a boy child? Some tips".
While all over the world, it's not unusual for expecting parents to have a gender preference, in India and other Asian countries that have a skewed gender ratio, the "preference" actually hides centuries of prejudice and violence towards the girl child.
Kerala has the highest sex ratio (1084) according to the 2011 Census of India. When it comes to child sex ratio (0-6 years), however, the state has shown a decline. Though the figure of 964 is better than the national average which stands at 927, the data shows that the country-wide obsession with sons has breached Kerala too, despite the state's performance in other social indices.
The six tips given by Mangalam to obtain the prized male child are laughable but unfortunately, this is no laughing matter. The article begins with this introduction:
"There's nobody who does not desire a child. Generally they say that one cannot decide the gender of the child in advance. However, people who want a boy child should know these things. There are a few simple techniques to have a boy child. Though it does not guarantee 100% success, it is proven by science."
Ranging from eating beef and having sex only on odd days of the week to asking women to lie down to their left with their faces pointing North, the list of tips may find place in a badly written fantasy novel but not in any scientific journal.
Snapshot of the article
If Mangalam's defence is that these are only "tips" and have nothing to do with son preference and its consequent ugliness, why didn't it also include tips for people who want to have girls? Has their "science" not discovered that yet? Last year, Baba Ramdev's Divya pharmacy was in the news for the "Putrajeevak" medicine - though Ramdev's defence was that the medicine only cures female infertility and will not guarantee a son, the name reveals the aspirations of the consumers it wants to target.
There are many superstitions, across cultures, about gender predictions and influencing the biological sex of the child but as far as science is concerned, the sex of the child cannot be chosen when the conception happens without using artificial means.
In India, the PCPNDT Act of 1994 was brought in to prevent the misuse of ultrasound machines and curb female feticide. But though laws exist, it's clear from such instances that the country has a long way to go as far as changing mindsets goes.