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Here’s Why We Are Petitioning To Change A Sentence In A Class X Science NCERT Book

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While going through my science book last year, I noticed something weird. A sentence in the class X science book reads, “A child who inherits an X chromosome from her father will be a girl, and one who inherits a Y chromosome from him will be a boy.”

Now at first glance, there is nothing wrong with it. This is what has been taught for ages, after all. A child with two X-chromosomes becomes a girl, and one with one X and one Y becomes a boy. The only shortcoming is, that’s not the case.

The sentence emphasises on necessity, and an urgency to bind gender with chromosomes. It ultimately concludes that gender is a binary term- which it is not.  WHO considers ‘Gender’ as those characteristics of women and men that are largely socially constructed.

This sentence confuses sex with gender identity and reduces it to a binary concept. A postdoctoral scholar from UCSF explains that “Biological gender and gender identity are two very distinct concepts. Biological gender or sex refers to the anatomy and physiology of a human body, whereas gender identity is influenced by a multitude of factors, most of which we don’t fully understand.”

WHO also claims that hundreds are born with several variations of chromosomes, which in no way defines their gender. In addition, some males are born 46XX due to the translocation of a tiny section of the sex-determining region of the Y chromosome. Similarly, some females are also born 46XY due to mutations in the Y chromosome. Clearly, there are not only females who are XX and males who are XY, but rather, there is a range of chromosome complements, hormone balances, and phenotypic variations that determine sex.

The primary concern about this topic is that this sentence creates a specific, confined mentality in the minds of students. This statement teaches that a person can either be male or female and nothing in between or outside. This perpetuates stereotypes and stigmas that concern the gender-fluid communities. It also perpetuates stereotypical notations about gender roles, because individuals feel that they have to be at one end of a linear spectrum and must identify themselves as man or woman, rather than being allowed to choose their identity.

In our letter to NCERT, we have urged them on the necessity of making this small yet significant edit. We have urged the concerned authorities to edit the specific sentence. It is necessary that students grow up to be accepting and open-minded citizens, and respect others. It needs to be understood, as we’ve already mentioned and given examples above, that chromosomes don’t bind gender, and it is an umbrella term.

Now, with all of this scientific data backing up our petition, here is what we have suggested to NCERT as a viable edit to the previous sentence.

Edit- ’’A child who inherits an X chromosome from her father will generally be a girl, and one who inherits a Y chromosome from him will generally be a boy.’’

This is similar to the definition carried out by WHO- Most women are 46XX, and most men are 46XY. Therefore, by adding a word that maintains the probability of the following gender based on chromosomes, a small yet significant change is done. Considering how such occurrences happen comparatively less than the cases where chromosomes do define gender, a very grammatical and scientific logic is maintained.

It’s a given that many people won’t consider this as a pressing issue, for it doesn’t show instant results or breaking down of harmful stereotypes. However, I urge people to imagine the scenario of noticing the word ‘generally’, and students questioning their teacher about it. You have a class full of students who now know and understand that sex isn’t confined to being a boy or a girl.

Can you imagine the impact this acceptance might have? Imagine a whole generation – accepting of all sexualities. Now, even when you’re unable to see the bigger picture, here’s another point.

Someone’s identity or your acceptance of it should not be beneficial to you. If your sole purpose of giving someone a representation in a textbook is to provide your children with an open mind, and not the acceptance of the oppressed, then there’s a fundamental mistake in your morals. The edit should be done, not only for expanding minds but to also accept that gender and sexualities outside of what we always believed existed.

It is a small change, but it gives students a chance to broaden their mindsets, learn more than the confined notions and grow up to be accepting citizens – which, we feel should be the primary goal of every educational institution.

Sign our petition to help us get our word to NCERT.

(too see our official letter to NCERT, click here)

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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