Sperm donors are all the rage these days, both on the big big screen and in the media. This week brings two more amusing stories that cast light on this, ahem, fruitful business.
Or not so fruitful, at least in the monetary sense, with young men being paid anywhere between Rs 170 to Rs 500 a pop, so to speak. Open magazine takes a closer look at the not-so-glamorous real life Vicky Donor, who is typically a cash-strapped young man looking to get by: [Read the article here ]
…[T]here are no wads of cash being dispensed, donors don’t hang out at Costa Coffee outlets, and they certainly don’t earn enough to buy cars. Indian donors are mostly outstation students living in cramped hostel rooms, sweating to pay their bills and embarrassed by their need to encash what everyone else flushes down the drain. For some donors, it may be pocket money, but for most it’s the room rent or phone bill. And turning donor entails putting their pride at risk. Every commercial ejaculator must pass a strict selection test. Only the best are signed on. The rejects return home unpaid and dejected.
Bottomline: Donating isn’t much fun. There’s the fear of rejection, the stigma of success, and the price of confession. When one donor finally confessed his past experiments with fertility to his wife, she was furious, viewing his donations as akin to infidelity. When she finally calmed down, she wanted him to find all his other “children” so they could live together as a family.
Sperm donation in India is shrouded in secrecy and shame — of both the donor and his beneficiaries. Unlike the donors, the couples looking for sperm are affluent and demanding, often for a simple reason, as in the case of this IT couple:
“They were willing to opt for a donor this time, but, as is usually the case, they wanted it done in complete secrecy,” says Dr Pai, “The couple hadn’t even confided in their parents, and they wanted a sample from a donor who looked as close as possible to the husband.” A sample of a fair-skinned, dark-haired donor who is 5 ft 10 inches tall and has brown eyes has just been ordered from a sperm bank for the couple.
But as Times of India points out, there are also far less admirable reasons for being oh-so-picky – reasons that reflect the usual defects in our national character. There’s the obsession with caste: Brahmin donors, please! As Firstpost noted earlier, even though it is illegal to divulge the caste identity of a donor, doctors often do so to oblige frantic clients. Muslims, on the other hand, want to know if the donor is Sunni or Shia.
And then there is that other typically Indian consideration: skin colour. “[Women] want to match the primary characteristics such as height, skin and colour with their husband. Mostly, they want someone who is taller and a shade fairer than their husband,” says Dr Malpani of this “very consumeristic” approach. This clearly explains the demand for all that high-flying IIT/IIM sperm. We’re always looking for that suitable boy.
Then there’s the socialite who walked into Dr Patil’s sperm bank with a very special list in hand: “A Page 3 personality walked in with a strange chart in her hand. There was a list of Bollwyood actors such as John Abraham and Emraan Hashmi and each of them was graded as A+, A, B+ and so on. She asked my staff if there were donors in these graded categories and insisted that she was ready to pay anything. We told her that we could not accept such demands; this was not a clinic for designer babies.”
Yet despite our demanding ways, most fancy multinational sperm banks have been forced to close shop. Like Cryos, which boasted of “a state-of-the-art ‘Masturbatorium’—a bedroom whose walls were adorned with images of nude women, its central attraction being a porcelain figurine of a woman in a blue-and-red bikini. The Masturbatorium also had a range of other ejaculatory aids, from glossy magazines to ‘reliable’ DVDs that could be played on a home theatre system.”
Cryos couldn’t compete with cheaper local outlets like Medilabs where donors have to make do with a dingy toilet and their imagination. According to Open, “Medilabs did away with its stack of magazines many years ago, after the centre’s neighbours complained about the ‘wrong’ culture it was thought to be spawning.”
In India, sperm donation is a risky business, in more ways than one.