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The Amazing Sperm Race: Not India's ballgame?

America has a plan for world domination and it’s far more ingenious than invading some oil-rich desert country like Iraq.

In 2005 ABC News reported that the top four US sperm banks control 65 percent of the global market. US exports sperm to over 60 countries. According to Time Magazine, it's a $100 million industry. In short, American sperm rocks.

But why? Americans love to think of themselves as exceptional people, manifest destiny and all, but do they have exceptional sperm?

In its cover story Frozen Assets, Time ticks of the reasons why American sperm is Numero Uno. America allows anonymous donations. The clinics are happy to sell sperm not just to heterosexual couples, but also single women and gay couples. (The domestic market is dominated by lesbians and single parents, the international market is very heterosexual.) The sperm pool is very diverse. Technology is allowing clients to get the donor of their dreams. And finally, as the blog Jezebel points out: “America contains some totally hot, spermy dudes.”

The world is waking up to the goodness of Indian sperm. Reuters

This is one area where India has been caught with its pants up. Our men are no laggards in the pent up sperm area but this is definitely not our ballgame. We just spend all our time adjusting our crotches in public when we could be spreading the goodness around the world. Like Ben Seisler who counts at least 70, perhaps 140 offspring in the US and abroad.

Ole Schou, the director for the Cryos sperm bank, told The Telegraph that Indian sperm was hard to find, which is a problem for infertile international Indians. India does not allow sperm or eggs to be exported. Meanwhile Cryos is inundated with red-headed donors and there is no market for them except in Ireland.

Cryos started an international sperm bank in India amidst much fanfare in 2008. They even set up recruitment stalls at the IIT-Mumbai cultural festival, but sadly, it was all in vain. Cryos India shut its doors last year. In a farewell letter, Dilip Patil, the managing director wrote:

There is no demand for high quality donor semen in India and export of donated semen has been prohibited by law. A vain attempt, with help from the Danish Foreign Affairs, to get the Indian Minister of Justice  and the Minister of Health to ease the export rules, has not given a positive result.

So basically, the Indian government, in its infinite wisdom, has ceded the playing field to spermy American dudes instead of seeding the world with our own. This, at a time, when the world is waking up to the goodness of Indian sperm.

There is even a small sperm tourism business that’s starting to take off in India. Infertile Afghans have been coming here to find themselves some Kashmiri sperm. Even white-skinned Westerners are finding Indian sperm a good bargain. "Usually patients have this notion that India is poor and people must be malnourished and uneducated. But, when we have counselled them, and showed them the  background of donors – some donors are young medical students or engineers — they are really impressed," Dr Anjali Malpani from Mumbai told Mid-Day. She estimated that 7 out of 10 foreign clients are OK with an Indian donor.

If only Indians were as open-minded. According to the Indian Express, there is a sperm bank in Hyderabad that only accepts Brahmin sperm. “Name, address and contact details are kept anonymous, but people are insistent, almost fanatical about caste. We can't give it to them on paper, but we find we have to tell them," Dr Saurav Kumar, who owns the sperm bank, Frozen Cell, in Patna, Bihar told The Telegraph, though he later denied that caste information was shared. I guess that is what passes for diversity here. We have IIT sperm, we have IIM sperm, we have medical college sperm. For a lower price we have Regional Engineering College sperm. Actually, Indians, with their long and vast experience in crafting the perfect made-to-order matrimonial ad are just tailormade for this sperm business.

A couple in Chennai made news recently with their ad for an ideal sperm donor: “should be an IIT student, healthy, no bad habits, tall and fair if possible.” They were willing to offer up to 20K for the perfect sperm and would consider relaxing a bit on the looks part for the “right person”. The IIT bit presumably is non-negotiable.

Seriously, there is a strong need for sperm banks even when you are not trying to have a designer baby. Cancer patients often freeze their sperm because they are afraid that chemo could destroy their fertility. One sperm bank in Mumbai reported that policemen want to save their sperm in case they were killed in the line of duty. Infertile couples need it to have children.

Yet sperm donation remains a taboo topic — just a notch above those premature ejaculation ads and sexology clinics when it comes to the snigger factor.

But hope might be on the horizon. Bollywood is taking up sperm donation. No, no, John Abraham is not donating his. But he is producing Vicky Donor, a rom com about sperm donation.

Perhaps that will be just what sperm donation needs in India — a masterstroke.

 

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